by Brad Brooks
(Reuters) – A federal judge in Tennessee has temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s directives that allow transgender workers and students to use bathrooms and locker rooms and join sports teams that correspond to their gender identity.
Judge Charles Atchley Jr. of the Eastern District of Tennessee ruled Friday that the administration’s directives would make it impossible for some states to enforce their own laws on transgender athlete participation in girls’ sports and bathroom access.
A coalition of 20 Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit last year against the federal government, saying they stood to lose significant federal funding because Biden’s directives conflicted with their own state laws.
Atchley agreed with that, writing in his order that states “cannot continue to regulate in accordance with their state laws and at the same time comply with Defendants’ guidance.”
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, one of the plaintiffs, said in a written statement Saturday that Atchley’s order “is a huge victory for women’s sports and for the privacy and safety of girls and women in sports.” bathrooms and locker rooms at their schools.
The Department of Justice, the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Neither immediately responded to requests for comment Saturday. All three had previously requested that Atchley dismiss the states’ lawsuit, a motion the judge denied in his ruling on Friday.
The coalition of Republican states argued that the Biden administration’s directives improperly expanded on a 2020 US Supreme Court ruling that extended anti-discrimination protections to transgender workers.
The high court in Bostock v. Clayton County said employers cannot fire workers based on their gender identity or sexuality. The judges expressly refused to decide whether the ruling applied to bathrooms and locker rooms separated by sex.
The Supreme Court in Bostock held that the prohibition of sex discrimination in the workplace in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extended to prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Department of Education, in its guidance issued last year, concluded that because Title IX, which prohibits sexual bias in federally funded educational programs, borrowed language from Title VII, Bostock also applies to the schools.
The department said, for example, that preventing a transgender high school girl from using the girls’ bathroom or trying out for the girls’ cheerleading squad would violate Title IX.
Atchley agreed with the states Friday, writing in his ruling that the Supreme Court in Bostock “explicitly refused to decide whether ‘sex-separated restrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes’ violate Title VII.”
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Editing by Daniel Wallis)