Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
The Trump administration signaled late this week that it will not defend controversial federal guidelines that had been issued by Obama for transgender students.
In the first concrete sign that a Trump White House will take a different path on transgender issues, the administration dropped the federal government's challenge to an injunction that blocked implementation of the guidelines, which directed schools to allow students to choose the bathroom that corresponds with their claimed gender identity.
Last year, after more than 12 states filed legal challenges to the Obama administration's new interpretation of Title IX to bar discrimination based on gender identity as well as sex, in schools that receive federal dollars, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued the injunction. It was appealed by the Obama administration, which argued that the new guidelines should apply in states that had not appealed the new Title IX rules.
On Friday, the “Justice Department withdrew the previous administration’s challenge,” the New York Times reported.
“'The parties are currently considering how best to proceed in this appeal,' the department said in a legal brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
"The decision changed little in the short term because the nationwide injunction has been in effect since August, but it signaled a significant change in the government’s approach to transgender issues under President Trump. Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, called the move a 'callous attack' on 'the dignity and safety of transgender students,'” reported the Times.
The decision could have an impact on Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, an important case up before the U.S. Supreme Court Court, with oral arguments scheduled for March 20-21.
In the case, the Virginia county school board challenged a federal appeals court decision that gave a 17-year-old biological female, who now identifies as a boy, the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with the student's gender identity. When the lower court ruled in favor of the student, it cited the government’s interpretation of Title IX as the basis for tis decision.
The justices will address two questions: the legality of the government’s interpretation of Title IX, and whether the administration followed approved procedures when it issued its expansive view of Title IX.
Meanwhile, a Feb.3 post on Scotusblog reported that the “time for the Trump administration to file a brief in the Supreme Court supporting the school board has passed, but the federal government could still rescind the Department of Education letter at the heart of the case or issue its own guidance on the issue.”