LGBT groups react to Obama administration guidance on transgender students

LGBT groups are reacting to a sweeping directive issued by the Obama administration on May 13. The directive provides guidance on the use of bathrooms by transgender students in all U.S. public schools. “While the directive does not have the force of law, it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid,” according to analysis by The New York Times. 

Here’s what LGBT groups are saying:

Human Rights Campaign

“These groundbreaking guidelines not only underscore the Obama administration’s position that discriminating against transgender students is flat-out against the law, but they provide public school districts with needed and specific guidance guaranteeing that transgender students should be using facilities consistent with their gender identity. This is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools.”-HRC President Chad Griffin.

National Center for Transgender Equality

“We’ve seen over and over that transgender students who are included and respected can thrive at school. But this year, some legislators and anti-trans extremists have been encouraging schools to deny transgender students basic educational opportunities, by fanning baseless fears and cooking up confusion about what federal law requires. That’s why transgender young people, their families and their schools have so desperately needed this guidance from the federal government.

 For so many students, the Department of Education’s letter is literally life-saving. It tells transgender students that they’re not fighting against daily ignorance and exclusion alone: the federal government is prepared to fight right beside them to ensure that all schools are following the law. It tells them that they deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else—and that’s something that’s protected by law. The discrimination that transgender students face isn’t going to vanish overnight, but this policy has real potential to push schools to improve their policies and change students’ lives.”- NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling

Trans United Fund

“Today is a historic day for the trans community and represents a tremendous step forward to making America a more fair, just and safe place for trans people of all ages. TUF is grateful to the Obama administration for standing with trans people and working to ensure that existing federal laws are applied fairly and appropriately to everyone. The guidance issued today by the Departments of Education and Justice under Title IX combined with the regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, will help ensure basic protections for trans people in education, healthcare coverage and gaining access to medically necessary services. From schools to hospitals, the trans community now knows that their Federal government is there to protect and support them.”— Alison Gill, founding member of the Trans United Fund

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund

“This is a big day for the transgender community. It means that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will accept allegations of discrimination, investigate them, and may bring claims in federal court. The other implication — especially with regard to North Carolina’s HB2 — is that the federal government will leave no stone unturned when enforcing already existing civil rights laws against illegal sex discrimination. This sends a clear message for the repeal of HB2 and to other states that are currently considering discriminatory legislation. This is very good news for the advancement of LGBTQ freedom, justice, equity and equality.” —Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán, J.D., Director, Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.

Campus Pride

“President Obama has affirmed today the lives of transgender young people and that they deserve human dignity and respect for who they are. Saving lives of trans youth means taking action and responsibility to ensure their safety in schools.  We applaud President Obama for his leadership and these guidelines that make it clear that discrimination toward transgender students is against the law. There is now direction, without any doubt, for public and federally funded colleges and universities that trans students are entitled to using facilities consistent with their gender identity.”— Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director of Campus Pride.

Equality Florida

“Today’s announcement makes crystal clear that public schools are required to respect transgender students’ rights including the right to use the bathroom that matches the gender they live every day.  The joint statement should be a wake up call to places like Marion County, Florida, and North Carolina that their recently passed policies clearly violate transgender students’ rights and the law.

This has been a historic week for the transgender community and especially transgender young people who face unthinkable levels of bullying, harassment, and violence. Today the federal government has said to transgender young people, we see you, we support you, and we will defend you against anyone who seeks to do you harm.   You are not alone.

As school boards across Florida work to ensure safe and welcoming learning environments for all of our students, these federal directives provide guidance and clarity so that all students are treated equally and consistent with their gender identity. No child should be subjected to bullying, harassment or discrimination in our schools for simply wanting to live an authentic life.”— Equality Florida Transgender Inclusion Director Gina Duncan