Federal judge temporarily blocks Biden administration from protecting transgender students and employees in 20 states

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The order issued Friday night allows the 20 states to continue enforcing controversial laws without risk of administrative retaliation, including the loss of federal funding for schools. He drew praise from Tennessee, which is leading the states in a lawsuit, and condemnation from LGBTQ advocates who criticized the judge for “lawmaking from the bench.”

According to agency guidelines, transgender students and workers are covered by Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded schools, and Title VII, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on race. , color, religion, sex and national origin. The guidelines were designed to protect trans people from a host of anti-trans policies, including bans on school sports teams, gender-conforming washrooms and locker rooms, and measures allowing employers to opt out. intentionally to use a worker’s preferred pronouns. .

“As demonstrated above, the harm alleged by the Complaining States is already occurring – their sovereign power to enforce their own legal code is fettered by the publication of the Defendants’ Guidelines and they face substantial pressure to change their national laws accordingly,” Judge Charles E. Atchley Jr., a Trump appointee, wrote in his preliminary injunction.

“As things stand, plaintiffs must choose between the threat of legal consequences — enforcement action, civil penalties, and withholding federal funding — or changing their state laws to ensure compliance with the guidelines and avoid such nefarious actions,” the read command said.

CNN has reached out to the Department of Education and the EEOC for comment on the order.

The Biden administration hinged its guidance on the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County that federal civil rights law protects transgender, gay, and lesbian workers. The administration used the ruling to expand anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in the United States in many areas of life. The Department of Education guidelines issued last year had been a reversal of the Trump administration’s position that gay and transgender students were not protected by law.

But Atchley said in his order that the Department for Education was unaware of “Bostock’s limited reach”.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III applauded the order in a statement Sunday, saying Atchley “rightly recognized that the federal government had put Tennessee and other states in an impossible situation: choose between the threat of legal consequences, including withholding federal funding, or changing our state laws to comply.”

“We are grateful that the court has called a halt to it, maintained the status quo as the trial progresses, and reminded the federal government that it cannot order its agencies to rewrite the law,” he said. he added.

The order sparked outrage among LGBTQ advocates, with one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights groups calling it “yet another example of far-right judges legislating from the bench.”

“Nothing in this ruling can prevent schools from treating students in accordance with their gender identity. And nothing in this ruling eliminates schools’ obligations under Title IX or the ability of students or parents to sue. in federal court,” Joni Madison, the Human Rights campaign’s acting chairman, said in a statement Saturday. “The HRC will continue to fight against these anti-transgender decisions with every tool in our toolbox.”

The administration has worked to strengthen some of the protections challenged in the lawsuit. President Joe Biden announced last month that the Department of Education was releasing new rules that would clarify that Title IX discrimination protections apply to sexual orientation and gender identity and that preventing someone to participate in a school program or activity that is compatible with their gender identity would be a violation. the law.

The proposed changes are subject to a public comment period before being finalized.

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