WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer said a forthcoming administration order revoking President Obama’s directive to allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choice is a states’ rights issue, while LGBT advocates said President Trump’s direction will harm youths.
The New York Times reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been strongly in favor of the move, clashed with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who was uncomfortable signing off on the order. Trump sided with Sessions, the paper reported.
Spicer cited legal challenges that prevented full implementation of the original directives; 13 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit after the Obama administration issued the guidance last May.
“And I think where you might be hearing something is more on the timing and the wording of stuff,” he said of the report.
“The conclusions everybody in the administration is agreed upon. There is no daylight between anybody, between the president, between any of the secretaries. I think there’s been some discussion between the timing of the issuance and recommendations or between the exact wording,” Spicer added.
“But as far as the conclusions go, I’ve made this clear and the president’s made it clear throughout the campaign that he is a firm believer in states’ rights and that certain issues like this are not best dealt with at the federal level.”
Spicer denied that transgender bathrooms was a priority for the president, who said in an April interview that “people go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate” and that Caitlyn Jenner could use either bathroom in Trump Tower.
“We now have to decide whether or not this administration wants to continue that track that they were on. It’s plain and simple. If we don’t — but there are problems both in the legal and process way in which that guidance was issued. And so it’s incumbent upon us to actually follow the law and to recognize that Title IX never talked about this. It was enacted in 1972. There was no discussion of this back then, and to assume certain elements of the law were thought of back then with respect to this would be completely preposterous,” Spicer said.
But Vanita Gupta, who led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under Obama, said the guidelines or their revocation are trumped by federal law prohibiting discrimination against students based on gender or sexual orientation.
“To cloak this in federalism ignores the vital and historic role that federal law plays in ensuring that all children (including LGBT students) are able to attend school free from discrimination,” Gupta said in a statement.
A transgender student claiming discrimination can sue under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
The Human Rights Campaign formed a Parents for Transgender Equality Council, which sent a letter signed by more than 1,000 parents of transgender youth to Trump last week stating in part: “No young person should wake up in the morning fearful of the school day ahead. When this guidance was issued last year, it provided our families — and other families like our own across the country — with the knowledge and security that our government was determined to protect our children from bullying and discrimination. Please do not take that away from us.”
HRC President Chad Griffin said today that transgender youths “face tragically high rates of discrimination and bullying, and they need a government that will stand up for them — not attack them.”
“It’s shocking that this kind of harm would even be a subject of debate for the president,” Griffin said.
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