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Judge blocks Biden’s administrative guidelines on transgender athletes, bathrooms

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A gender-neutral bathroom is on display at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California, Sept. 30, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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July 16 (Reuters) – A federal judge in Tennessee has temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s guidelines allowing transgender workers and students to use bathrooms and locker rooms and join sports teams that match their gender identities.

Judge Charles Atchley Jr. of the Eastern District of Tennessee ruled Friday that government guidelines would make it impossible for some states to enforce their own laws on transgender athletes’ participation in girls’ sports and access to bathrooms.

A coalition of 20 Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the federal government last year, noting they would lose significant federal funding because Biden guidelines violated their own state laws.

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Atchley agreed, writing in his injunction that the states “cannot continue to regulate under their state laws while at the same time complying with defendants’ guidelines.”

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, one of the plaintiffs, said in a written statement on Saturday that Atchley’s injunction is “a major victory for women’s sports and for the privacy and safety of girls and women in their school bathrooms and Dressing rooms.”

The Department of Justice, the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are named as defendants in the lawsuit. No one immediately responded to requests for comment on Saturday. The three had previously requested that Atchley dismiss the states lawsuit, a motion the judge rejected in Friday’s ruling.

The coalition of Republican states argued that the Biden administration’s guidelines were incorrectly extended on a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that extended anti-discrimination protections to transgender workers.

The highest court in Bostock v. Clayton County said employers cannot fire employees because of their gender identity or sexuality. The judges expressly declined to rule whether the ruling applied to gender-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms.

The Bostock Supreme Court ruled that the barrier to gender discrimination in the workplace in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extended to bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Department of Education concluded in its guidelines released last year that because Title IX, which excludes sexual bias in federally funded education programs, borrowed language from Title VII, Bostock also applied to schools.

For example, the department said banning a transgender high school girl from using or trying out the girls’ restroom for the girls’ cheerleading team would violate Title IX.

Atchley agreed with the states on Friday, writing in his ruling that the Bostock Supreme Court “explicitly refused to rule on whether ‘sex-separated bathrooms, locker rooms and dress codes’ violate Title VII.”

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Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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