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A federal judge in Texas has blocked the Obama administration’s order that requires public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms consistent with their chosen gender identity.

The order by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor was signed late Sunday, just hours before thousands of North Texas students headed back to school.

O’Connor ruled: “This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students’ rights and that of personal privacy when using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school.”

Rights of transgender people to use bathrooms of their choice has become highly controversial in the US.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, argued that President Obama was “attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people”.

The decision is a blow for the Obama administration. In May, the White House told the nation’s public school districts they must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and other facilities like locker rooms matching their chosen gender identity or risk losing federal funding.

“We will not yield to blackmail from the president of the United States,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in response to the order. “This goes against the values of so many people.”

Various states are opposed to the policy changes including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Other states last month launched a similar suit to stop the new bathroom policy in public schools. They are: Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

The Department of Justice responded to the ruling in a statement, saying it was “disappointed in the court’s decision” and is reviewing its options.

 

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