Yesterday, Buzzfeed News reported that a US Department of Education spokesperson said that the department will no longer act on complaints from transgender students who have been denied access to school bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. If transgender students are denied access to the bathroom, however, they are also denied access to the school. That’s discrimination and that’s barred by federal law.
Last year, the Trump administration revoked guidance for public schools put out by the Obama administration about Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. The guidance explained that Title IX prohibits discrimination against transgender students, including denying them access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
The Trump administration’s troubling stance seems motivated, in part, by outside advocacy groups. For instance, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed lawsuits across the country challenging the guidance and transgender-inclusive policies in individual school districts. The basis for the lawsuits: ADF claims that policies designed to fight discrimination violate religious freedom.
Religious freedom is a fundamental American value. It guarantees us all the right to believe or not, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to use religion to harm others.
That’s why Americans United joined a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a school district’s inclusive policy in one of ADF’s lawsuits seeking the right to use religion to justify discrimination against transgender students.
And when some community members complained—saying their religious beliefs motivated their opposition—about Gavin Grimm’s use of the boys’ bathrooms at school, we filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Gavin. School policy—especially a policy of outright discrimination—cannot be governed by some community members’ religious beliefs.
Yesterday’s announcement is more of the same from the Trump administration: They are putting in place policies that could result in discrimination against women, LGBTQ people, and others, often using religion as an excuse to do so. Follow us online on Facebook and Twitter to see how we’re fighting back.