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White House: Trans students’ civil rights should be left up to the states

FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2015 file photo, Gavin Grimm poses on his front porch during an interview at his home in Gloucester, Va. U.S. District Court Judge Robert G. Doumar ruled Thursday, June 2, 2016, that the Gloucester County School Board must allow Grimm to use the bathroom that matches his gender identity while the case is being litigated in court.Photo: AP Photo/Steve Helber, File

The Trump administration intends to release new guidance on transgender students that affirms states’ rights, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said a Tuesday news briefing.

“That is an issue that the Department of Justice and the Department of Education are addressing,” Spicer said when asked about rumors Trump would rescind the Obama administration’s guidance. “I think that there will be further guidance coming from DOJ in particular with respect not just to the executive order but also the case that is in front of the Supreme Court.”

The case Spicer referenced is that of 17-year-old transgender student Gavin Grimm, who is suing his Gloucester County School Board for the right to use the same restroom as other boys.

President Trump appears not to have a problem with some transgender people — like Caitlin Jenner — using the restroom that aligns with their gender. Instead, he has punted the question of transgender restroom access back to the states.

“The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government,” Spicer said. “So will there be further guidance coming out on this? I think all you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time. That this is not something that the federal government should be involved in. This is a states’ rights issue.”

Some LGBTQ advocates have speculated the new guidance could come as early as this week. For states without their own transgender protections, the loss of this guidance make transgender students even more vulnerable. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice issued a brief saying it would no longer request a stay of a Texas judge’s ruling against the Obama guidance that directed schools to accommodate transgender students.

Still, it could be worse.

Vanita Gupta, who led President Obama’s Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, explained to Buzzfeed that repealing Obama’s directive would not change federal law — transgender students can still sue under Title IX, they just won’t have the backing of the federal government.

“This administration cannot strip away the rights of transgender students by retracting the guidance — the issue is before the courts now and the law has not changed,” she said in a statement. “To cloak this in federalism ignores the vital and historic role that federal law plays in ensuring that all children are able to attend school free from discrimination.”

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