White House Says Transgender Protections Are A ‘States Rights’ Issue

White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that the White House had rescinded guidance to public schools on transgender students’ access to facilities that match their gender identity because it ought to be a “states’ rights” issue.

Spicer also pointed to a federal judge in Texas who blocked implementation of the Obama administration’s guidance last August. Obama had instructed the Department of Education to instruct public schools not to discriminate against transgender students.

“It’s a states’ right issue. And that’s entirely what he believes,” Spicer said, referring to President Donald Trump, “that if a state wants to pass a law or rule or an organization wants to do something in compliance with the state law, that’s their right, but it shouldn’t be the federal government getting in the way of this.”

“If you look at this, the law that was passed in 1972 did not contemplate or consider this issue,” he said, referring to Title IX.

Spicer also said the Obama administration did not “properly follow” the procedure for issuing the guidance letter.

“There was no comment period,” he said. “There was no input from parents, teachers, students or administrators, none, so if we think about how this was implemented last administration, there was zero input. There was zero comment period offered. Teachers and students never had any say in how this was implemented.”

He added that students had other protections at the state level.

“I think we do have to recognize that children do enjoy rights from anti-bullying statutes in almost every state,” he said. “There’s a difference between being compassionate for individuals and children who are struggling with something and wanting to make sure they’re protected, and how it’s being done.

“The President has a big heart, as we have talked about in a lot of other issues, and there’s a big difference,” he said.

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had protested against rescinding the order, disagreeing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Times reported that Trump sided with Sessions, and DeVos caved. Later in the day, Spicer said any differences between Sessions and DeVos, whose signatures were both needed to rescind the order, were in regard to “the timing of the issuance and recommendations, or between the exact wording.”

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