“Transgender students too often struggle to receive an education free from discrimination and bullying,” County Supervisor Ken Yeager said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to do everything we can to protect innocent transgender children, especially when the rights of our transgender youth are being infringed upon by [President Donald Trump].”
Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. Department of Justice determined that Title IX—which prevents federally funded schools from discriminating on the basis of sex—applies to transgender students. As part of that ruling, the DOJ instructed schools to let students to use restrooms assigned to the gender they identify.
During his first week in office, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions walked it all back—despite Trump’s campaign vows to the contrary and despite some initial pushback from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Trump broke with Republicans last year by promising to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people from oppression, and he held that line even after taking office. A Jan. 31 White House statement vowed to honor the rights of all Americans, “including the LGBTQ community.”
Apparently, Trump didn’t need much convincing to change his mind.
In defending the decision at a press briefing Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called it a matter of states’ rights, not civil rights.
“All you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in,” Spicer said at a press briefing Tuesday. “This is a states’ rights issue.”
Yeager said the change of course marks an abdication of the federal government’s duty to protect the civil rights of students who face harassment for simply existing. Thankfully, Yeager added, the administration’s action does nothing to change existing protections’ in California or Santa Clara County. But the federal action could leave students in more conservative parts of the state especially vulnerable.
“By insisting that this is a state’s rights issue, rather than the civil rights issue that it is, our federal government has signaled to students in states and localities with a history of refusing to protect their rights that they are now on their own,” Yeager said.
Yeager, who became the first openly gay elected official in the region in 1992, led the creation of a countywide Office of LGBTQ Affairs in 2015.
Assemblyman Evan Low (D-San Jose), who chairs the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, called the reversal of federal policy part of an agenda of hate.
“Fortunately, the Executive Office does not have the power to singlehandedly change federal law,” Low noted in a press release. “School districts nationwide are still legally required to comply with Title IX and protect transgender students. Schools that have protected the rights of transgender students should continue to do so and those that discriminate will still face liability in court.”
He urged transgender students affected by the directive to call the Sacramento LGBT Community Center at 916.442.0185 or the Gender Health Center at 916.455.2391.