The Trump administration is poised to issue new guidance outlining which restrooms transgender students can use, potentially sowing confusion in schools, angering LGBTQ rights groups and adding uncertainty to a widely discussed case due to come before the U.S. Supreme Court next month.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump “has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government.”
Spicer announced that there would be “further guidance” coming soon on the issue from the administration. He offered no timeline, and the U.S. Department of Education did not immediately reply to a request for more information.
The Obama administration last year issued guidelines requiring that schools allow transgender students to use restrooms matching their chosen gender rather than their birth gender. Thirteen states challenged the move, prompting a federal judge in Texas to issue a nationwide hold on enforcement of the guidance.
Fifteen states have explicit protections for transgender students, and many individual school districts in other states have adopted policies that recognize students on the basis of their gender identity, Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) told The Associated Press. Just one state, North Carolina, has enacted a law restricting students’ bathroom access to their sex at birth. But so far this year, lawmakers in more than 10 states are considering similar legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the Obama guidelines were unlawful because federal Title IX law protects students based on their sex, not their gender identity. He also said that those directives violated the rights of other students, especially girls who may have suffered from sexual abuse in the past and do not want to be exposed to male anatomy. “It’s understandable when a 16-year-old girl might not want an anatomical male in the shower or the locker room,” Anderson said.