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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 13, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 02
Obama administration appeals Title IX ruling, seeks to protect Trans students
Section One
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Obama administration appeals Title IX ruling, seeks to protect Trans students

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Obama administration has decided to appeal an August 2016 federal court decision that blocked enforcement of Department of Education guidelines designed to protect Transgender students.

In a January 6 filing, federal lawyers asked the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to overturn the earlier ruling on the grounds that it was incorrect and overly broad.

Although the administration now has less than two weeks left in office, the appeal will go forward and could potentially vindicate Obama's reading of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments. The administration has argued that Title IX's ban on sex discrimination in federally funded schools protects Trans students and allows them to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.

The case at issue began with a lawsuit by Texas and several other Republican-dominated states arguing that the Obama administration exceeded its authority in telling local school districts where Trans students should use the restroom.

US District Court Judge Reed O'Connor sided with the states and issued a temporary injunction last August suspending enforcement of the administration's guidelines nationwide.

His order also blocked agencies from starting new enforcement actions and barred government lawyers from raising certain arguments in ongoing lawsuits.

O'Connor did not address the issue of how a similar ban on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act - the section pertaining to employment - should be interpreted. The Obama administration has also read that section as affording workplace protections to Trans employees.

In its appeal of O'Connor's August ruling, the administration contends that workplaces should not be affected, because his original injunction did not mention Title VII.

In their appeal, Justice Department lawyers made three arguments to the Fifth Circuit: " They said the administration did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), as Texas and the other states claimed. The guidelines for schools and workplaces are not final acts by any agency, the appeal says, and therefore did not require a special process under the APA.

" They also contended that the states lack standing to bring the case because they 'can ignore [the guidance] without legal consequence.' Enforcement procedures stem from the underlying civil rights laws, not the guidance itself, they say.

" Finally, they argued that the lower court, under Judge O'Connor, erred by ruling too broadly. O'Connor did so by in applying the injunction nationwide, rather than just within the states that brought the lawsuit, the administration's lawyers say.

The Justice Department has asked the Fifth Circuit to throw out the injunction and instruct O'Connor to dismiss the case.

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