Ken Paxton files injunction against federal guidances protecting trans students

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas AG Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today (Wednesday, July 6) announced that Texas is leading a 13-state coalition asking for a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of “Obama’s bathroom rules.”

“Obama’s bathroom rules” refer to a list of guidances issued earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice to help school districts avoid discriminating against transgender students. Paxton and other right-wingnuts — including Chief Protector of the Bathrooms Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — insist that those guidelines, along with Fort Worth Independent School District’s comprehensive policy for interacting and protecting transgender students, put women and children in danger by allowing men to use the same public restrooms and locker rooms as long as the men/boys are willing to declare that they feel like a woman/girl that day.

Federal officials have noted that school districts that insist on discriminating against transgender people risk losing federal money because such discrimination violates Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools. Federal officials and federal courts have already determined that “sex” in this case means gender and includes anti-trans discrimination.

Paxton said, in his press release, “The nation’s schools, and every place of employment, are now in the crosshairs of the Obama administration, which maintains it will punish those who do not comply with its orders. Schools are facing the potential loss of funding for simply exercising the authority to implement the policies that best protect their students. Every employer is now being threatened for not bowing to anyone that identifies as the opposite sex.”

The press release then goes on to explain that the Obama administration is “attempting to rewrite Congress’ use of the term ‘sex’ in multiple federal lawsuits to now include ‘gender identity.’ If successful this radical change simultaneously opens up all intimate areas within schools and workplaces to members of both sexes.”

Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, issued this statement in response to Paxton’s motion for an injunction:

“Equality Texas condemns Attorney General Ken Paxton’s refusal to acknowledge the existence of 1.4 million Americans who are transgender, and his choice today to target the most vulnerable segment of that population — transgender kids.

“Attorney General Ken Paxton has already wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, discriminated against his fellow Texans with taxpayer money, and deprived thousands of Texans of their dignity and respect in a losing effort opposing the freedom to marry. Now, the attorney general has determined to waste millions more in an obviously futile attempt to prevent our transgender citizens, and in particular transgender kids, from being afforded the most basic dignity to use the bathroom, despite the fact that the Fourth Circuit and various government agencies have made the law clear.

“His actions undermine federal protections for gay and transgender children. In particular, this injunction seeks to punish transgender students protected by Title IX and the U.S. Department of Education to harm Texans who have done nothing wrong.

“The actions being initiated today by Paxton will ultimately fail, just as they did with marriage equality. Attorney General Ken Paxton shows an obsession with discriminating against the LGBT community. Statements already made by Paxton demonstrated a shameful animus towards the transgender community, which will ultimately lead the Supreme Court to declare all laws unconstitutional which relegate members of the LGBT community to a second class status. The U.S. Constitution will never uphold blatant discrimination against our citizens.”

Following is a list of the 13 states filing for the injunction. The number in parenthesis following each state’s name denotes where, as of 2015, that state ranked, nationally, in terms of the quality of their educational systems:

Texas (31st); Alabama (39th), Arizona (48th), Georgia (35th), Kentucky (10th), Louisiana (43rd), Maine (20th), Mississippi (45th), Oklahoma (34th), Tennessee (28th), Utah (16th), West Virginia (46th) and Wisconsin (4th).

(These numbers are the School System Quality Ranking of each, according to a study conducted by WalletHub and based on “13 key metrics that range from student-teacher ratios to standardized-test scores to dropout rates.”)

And by the way, Ken Paxton is the same one facing has been charged with two first-degree and one third-degree felony counts of violating state securities laws, and similar state charges, too.

—  Tammye Nash

3 Texas groups sign letter demanding NCAA divest from campuses seeking Title IX exemptions

Criswell-College

Criswell College in Dallas is among the institutions to apply for a Title IX exemption.

Fairness Fort Worth, Resource Center and Houston’s  Legacy Center have joined a coalition of more than 80 LGBT sports, religious and youth advocacy groups signed on to a letter issued publicly yesterday (Wednesday, March 9) calling on the National Collegiate Athletic Association to divest from all religious-based institutions that have made Title IX waiver requests targeting transgender youth.

In their letter to the organization, which oversees and regulates athletics in higher education, they say the Title IX exemptions contradict the NCAA’s mission.

“Our partners on this open letter agree with the NCAA when it says that, ‘Diversity and inclusion improves the learning environment for all student-athletes, and enhances excellence within the Association.’ It is because we believe diversity and inclusion leads to the best learning environments that we ask NCAA to divest from all religious based campuses who have requested these discriminatory waivers,” the letter reads.

An educational institution run by a religious organization may apply for a Title IX exemption from the Department of Education if it “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”

The requests grew in response to the Department of Education decision in 2014 to include transgender students under Title IX protections.

The Title IX waiver allows campus administrators to deny transgender students admission, usage of public accommodations, and protections against anti-LGBT actions from students and faculty.

“Religion-based bigotry is the basis for the vast majority of prejudice and discrimination LGBT people face, especially young people,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and one of the signatories, said in a statement. “The NCAA cannot stand for this outright discrimination among its member institutions and we urge them to take action to ensure an inclusive sports culture that is safe and fair for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

There are currently fifty-nine religious-based colleges and universities on the list, according to Campus Pride’s “Shame List.”

East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton and Howard Payne University in Brownwood are among the 37 campuses who received exemptions. University of Dallas in Irving, Criswell College in Dallas and Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene have applied for waivers.

“As people of faith or spirit, we call upon the NCAA to act on its stated values as an LGBTQ inclusive organization and divest from these schools who are willfully and intentionally creating unsafe environments for LGBTQ students,” said Jordyn Sun, national campus organizer at Soulforce. “No athlete should play sports under the specter of fear and discrimination. Instead, these schools should simply follow the law.”

—  James Russell

More Miss. homophobia: ACLU sues school for barring tux-wearing girl’s photo from yearbook

Earlier this year, the ACLU stepped in when a teenage lesbian in Mississippi was told by her school that she couldn’t attend prom with her girlfriend, and the Itawamba County School District eventually agreed to shell out $35,000 to settle the lawsuit brought by Constance McMillen.

Now the ACLU has filed suit against another Mississippi school that refused to include a female student’s name and senior photo in the yearbook because she was wearing a tuxedo. The lawsuit claims Wesson Attendance Center unfairly discriminated against Ceara Sturgis based on her sex and unfair gender stereotypes.

Sturgis attended Wesson from kindergarten through 12th grade. She was an honor student and a member of several sports teams at the school. A press release from the ACLU says nothing about Sturgis’ sexual orientation, but does say that she prefers to wear “clothing that is traditionally associated with boys” both at home and at school.

According to the ACLU press release, Sturgis at first tried to wear the “drape” used in girls’ senior photos to make it look like they are wearing a dress or a blouse, but it made her extremely uncomfortable. So the student got her mother to request that she be allowed to wear a tuxedo for the portrait. And the photographer agreed.

It wasn’t until after the whole picture-taking process was all said and done that the school principal told Sturgis he wouldn’t let the photo be published in the yearbook.

According to Bear Atwood, interim legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi, the school’s actions violate Title IX, which bans discrimination based on gender and gender stereotypes in public education. Plus, he said, they were just plain old “mean-spirited.”

—  admin