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Obama Administration Tells Schools to End Transgender Discrimination

President Barack Obama
The White House

The Justice and Education departments issued a joint guidance on how schools must follow federal law in regard to bathrooms, changing rooms, and other gender-related spaces.

The federal government ramped up efforts this week to end transgender discrimination in schools across the country.

The Department of Justice and the Department of Education sent a joint letter to every Title IX-compliant school in the country, informing school officials that if they want to keep federal funding, they'll have to provide equal access to education, sports and other programs based on a student's gender identity.

"The Departments treat a student's gender identity as the student's sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations," the letter said. "This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity."

The guidance also came with examples from school districts around the country on resolving transgender issues.

The federal government has interpreted Title IX's protection against sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity for several years. But with recent state legislation forbidding transgender people's access to bathrooms, changing rooms and other facilities matching their identity, the Obama administration has stepped more directly into the fray.

The Department of Justice filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina for HB2, one of several "bathroom bills" passed or introduced in several conservative states. When announcing the suit, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that her department is monitoring similar legislation in other states and could take legal action if needed.

While many supporters of the bathroom bills claim the legislation protects their religious freedom, the Obama administration makes clear the intent of federal law.

"As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others' discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of student," the letter said.

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