Transgender Bathroom Rights Will Soon Be Extended To Federal Facilities

Despite the national discussion surrounding the issue, transgender Americans still don’t have the freedom to choose which bathroom they use in many places. The Obama administration ordered all public schools to allow trans students to use the bathrooms that correlate with their gender identity in May, but school districts are still fighting the rule and multiple states are even suing the federal government over it. However, the government isn’t backing down, and soon, federal facilities will have to extend transgender bathroom rights to everyone.

The Federal Register, which outlines all the rules federal agencies must follow, will be updated this week by the General Services Administration (GSA) to say federal buildings have to allow people to use the restroom “consistent with their gender identity.” About 9,200 facilities will be affected, with only national parks, the White House, and the U.S. Capitol not included because the GSA doesn’t preside over their operations. On top of employees, the directive will also apply to anyone who enters federal courthouses, Social Security offices, or any federal building.

“This includes all kinds of Americans,” GSA spokesperson Ashley Nash-Hahn told Buzzfeed’s Dominic Holden. “We wanted to make clear that a person can use facilities that match their gender identity, and we think that’s a good thing.”

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Although the GSA isn’t controlled by President Obama, the president nominated Denise Turner Roth as its administrator, and now the agency is helping further LGBTQ rights the Obama administration has been fighting for recently. Changing the Federal Registry is less controversial than sending a letter to every school district in the nation ordering them to treat transgender students fairly, but it’s yet another way the administration is making moves without Congress’ help. Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told BuzzFeed the new rules are “more evidence that the Obama administration is serious about enforcing the law.”

It also further solidifies the interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that bans discrimination based on sex to include discrimination based on gender identity. Those who want to police which bathroom transgender folks use want the sex discrimination clause to be strictly interpreted and argue that the law doesn’t explicitly say “gender identity” or “transgender,” so it can’t apply to those cases.

Regardless of the transphobic communities’ objections, updating the Federal Registry to reflect the more liberal interpretation sends the message that the government is protecting transgender Americans from discrimination.