Malloy, UConn responds to Trump’s withdrawal of protective rights for transgender people

President Donald Trump's administration recently withdrew the protective rights for transgender students using the bathrooms that correspond with their identified gender. Connecticut schools already protect transgender students under an executive order signed by Governor Dannel Malloy. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

Following the Trump administration’s recent withdrawal of protective rights for transgender students using bathrooms that correspond with their identified gender, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed an executive order protecting transgender students in the Connecticut school system.

Malloy’s Executive Order No. 56 clarifies that both bathrooms and locker rooms within public schools and higher education institutions are places of public accommodation, under existing anti-discriminatory state laws in Connecticut.

“Every child, no matter their gender identity or expression, should be treated equally and fairly in a safe, supportive environment. Connecticut will remain a state of inclusiveness because we strongly believe that diversity makes us stronger,” Malloy said regarding transgender rights.

President Trump’s team rescinded the guidelines put forth by the Obama administration last Wednesday, Feb. 22.

The protections that existed  under the Obama administration were based on an interpretation of Title IX, the federal law which bans discrimination based on sex in schools, to now include gender identity. This interpretation was enforced in May of 2016 through a joint guidance, created by the departments of Education and Justice under Obama. Protections based upon gender identity were given to school districts and colleges that received federal funding, according to CNN.

Even without the hold from the Trump Administration, the guidance under Obama did not carry a force of law. The interpretation of Title IX simply created guidelines of protection for transgender students at a federal level, according to CNN.

Issued jointly under the departments of education and justice by Attorney General Sessions and Education secretary DeVos, the letter did not take a clear position on if Title IX will continue to protect gender identity, according to National Public Radio.

“This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said to the New York Times.

Without the directive of the Obama administration, individual schools will remain free to let transgender students use bathrooms which they are most comfortable. The future decisions regarding trans bathroom rights in schools will now be an issue left up to state and local governments, according to CNN.

Even though the guidelines are not formally rescinded, the decision sends “a strong signal,” that the Justice Department may no longer pursue cases for transgender people, Human Rights Campaign’s Sarah Warbelow said.

Despite these events, the University of Connecticut remains committed to making sure transgender students feel safe and free to use whichever restroom corresponds to their identified gender, according to Associate Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Joelle Murchison and Associate Vice President, Title IX Coordinator & ADA Coordinator Elizabeth Conklin.

“We want the university community to know that this action does not change UConn’s longstanding commitment to ensure a safe and nondiscriminatory learning and working environment for all members of our community, including those who are transgender... This includes using restrooms and locker rooms that match the gender with which they identify,” read a statement from Murchison and Conklin.

Within Connecticut, transgender protections have been established through law since 2011, and are now further protected under Governor Malloy’s Executive Order issued Thursday Feb. 23.

“I don’t identify as trans, but I am a member of the LGBTQ community. Even though our state is protecting trans rights, it scares me to know that other students can eventually have their basic rights taken from their school or state after Trump’s actions,” a UConn sophomore said.

“It’s stupid. I couldn’t care less [who I go to the bathroom] next to,” said eighth-semester digital marketing and design major Jared Cyr.

For more information on this issue, resources are available through UConn’s Rainbow Center, Office for Diversity and Inclusion and Office of Institutional Equity.


Kristina Carretero is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kristina.carretero@uconn.edu.