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Judge Temporarily Blocks LGBTQ Discrimination Protections in Work and Schools

A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of two directives pushed by the Biden administration protecting LGBTQ people in schools and workplaces from discrimination, according to the Washington Post.

U.S. District Judge Charles Atchley Jr. of the Eastern District of Tennessee ruled in favor of 20 state attorneys general who claimed the Biden administration’s guidance infringes upon states’ rights, arguing that the directives would have put them at risk of losing federal funding because of their existing laws.

“Defendant’s guidance directly interferes with and threatens Plaintiff States’ ability to continueenforcing their state laws,” Atchley wrote in his ruling. “Their sovereign power to enforce their own legal code is hampered by the issuance of Defendants’ guidance and they face substantial pressure to change their state laws as a result.”

According to the attorneys general who filed the lawsuit, the Biden administration exercised an authority that “properly belongs to Congress, the States, and the people.” Atchley agreed with the state attorneys general that the Education Department, in a West Virginia lawsuit, had attempted to enforce its guidance by filing a statement of interest claiming Title IX prohibits the state from preventing transgender girls from participating in girls’ athletics.

“Defendants would be allowed to use the ‘fear of future sanctions’ to force ‘immediate compliance’ with the challenged guidance,” Atchley wrote.

The administration’s guidance was issued by the Education Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) following a Supreme Court ruling in 2020 that said that Title VII, a civil rights provision prohibiting job discrimination because of sex, includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The directives would have applied to educational institutions receiving federal funding, as well as most employers, to extend protections for transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms and join sports teams that align with their gender identity.

“The Department of Education strives to provide schools with the support they need to create learning environments that enable all students to succeed, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne B. Goldberg said in a statement announcing the guidance in 2021. “Equity in education means all students have access to schools that allow them to learn and thrive in all aspects of their educational experience,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne B. Goldberg. “As part of our mission to protect all students’ civil rights, it is essential that OCR acts to eliminate discrimination that targets LGBTQ students.”

The states in question represented by the attorneys general include Georgia, as well as Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

The injunction will remain in place “pending the final resolution of this matter,” according to Atchley’s decision, or until further orders are given from the district court or higher courts.