By now you’ve probably heard the story as reported by the Washington Post, that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump would undo the policies recently announced by the Obama administration demanding that transgender children be treated humanely and that transgender patients not face discrimination from health care providers.
In other words, Trump would allow states to oppress transgender children by giving schools the right to refuse to use correct pronouns, update their gender in official records, or permit them to use the correct restroom. States could set up insurance regulations under which insurers and providers could deny coverage to people simply because they are transgender.
Instead Trump claims he would “protect everyone”, a general statement which directly contradicts the very specific move he promised to make. Obviously, only one of those can be what he actually intends to do. The other is pure political rhetoric. If I had to guess which is which (and I do, since I will be voting for or against him in November) I would expect that he means what he says – that the Obama Administration’s call for transgender anti-discrimination protections will be gone.
I was afraid of this when I first heard of the letter Obama’s Department of Education sent to every school system in the country reminding them of their obligation to treat transgender students fairly — that it would last only until next January, the 20th to be exact.
You see, it is an executive order, issued by the president, and therefore able to be countermanded by the president, or any future president. For those not well versed in the details of American government, there are three branches, Executive (the president), Legislative (congress), and Judicial (the courts). Legislative actions are hard to complete, but when they do, they last until further legislative action repeals them or they are struck down by the courts. Judicial actions last until higher courts overrule them or they are clarified by further legislation. However, executive actions, like the protections offered by the Obama administration, can easily be reversed by the president with the stroke of a pen.
That’s exactly what Mr. Trump says he will do.
Make no mistake, states violate the law when they accept federal money but discriminate against transgender students and patients. As the Transadvocate points out, violation of these rules is a breach of contract with the government. The government requires states agree not to discriminate as a condition of receiving federal aid, so by breaking Obama’s rules, they are going back on their agreements.
Unfortunately, that only matters if the president and the Executive Branch are willing to enforce those agreements.
Obama will. Trump says he won’t.