Much ado about bathrooms.
In recent months, states like North Carolina and Mississippi have passed state laws that try to discriminate against LGBT groups in the form of denying services to same-sex couples and not allowing trans people to choose which bathroom to go based on their gender identity. Since then, many of these states have come under great scrutiny from a wide range of individuals and groups, ranging from celebrities to Fortune 500 companies threatening to no longer do business with these states if anti-LGBT laws continue to be in the books. Late last week, President Barack Obama looked to have added his voice among the dissenters.
As the week came to a close, the Obama administration published two major rules to counter the current anti-LGBT laws in various states. Specifically the rules dealt with the rights of trans people, which has been in great debate over the last few weeks.
On Friday, the Obama administration sent out guidelines to schools that ensured the civil rights of transgender students were being met. That meant making sure transgender students were not being discriminated against or block restrooms and locker room access based on a student’s gender identity. The guidelines were a joint effort by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education to remind federally funded schools that these rights of transgender students were protected under federal law through the Civil Rights Act. Of course some parents had a very measured reaction to this.
And by “measured”, we meant completely over-reacting to the situation.
The other major rule the Obama administration published was the protecttion of trans people from discrimination in healthcare. Specifically when it came to getting covered under the Affordable Care Act (ie Obamacare). The US Department of Health and Human Services finalized language in the ACA making sure it banned discrimination based on the gender identity when people would be applying for health insurance. Also within the language, the rule also specifically prohibits insurance companies from purposely excluding gender transitioning within their offered health plans, which has been a huge topic of debate among social conservatives and those in the LGBT community.
While not wide ranging as congressional legislation, the Obama administration’s rules still look to make an impact on the spectrum of LGBT rights. However while both rules deal with the protection of trans people, only one of them has language that specifically calls for their protection.
Unlike the healthcare provision, the guidelines sent to public schools aren’t creating or legally binding schools to enact on the proposed public policy. The Obama administration believes the rights of trans students are protected under the Civil Rights Act, yet this is just their interpretation of the law. There are many social conservatives that believe the Civil Rights Act does not include gender identity in its language.
While the Obama administration hopes that these rules start to show state and local municipalities that LGBT rights is something that will be protected by the federal government, considering the irrational fear some have expressed over individuals choosing what bathroom people go to, this doesn’t look like it’s going to get figured out anytime soon.
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