by Chris Johnson, Washington Blade
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was bold Tuesday in declaring opposition to the Trump administration’s rollback of guidance prohibiting discrimination against transgender kids, but kept his cards close to his vest on his plan to address the reversal.
Schumer made the remarks during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in response to a question from the Washington Blade on when Senate Democrats intend to respond to President Trump’s revocation of the Obama-era guidance.
“I have said, look, American has had a long march to equality,” Schumer said. “There have been bumps in the road, but it’s been pretty inexorable, and this is a significant turn backward and we will do whatever we can to get him to reverse it.”
Asked whether legislation or friend-of-the-court briefs on the issue would be forthcoming, Schumer said succinctly, “Stay tuned.”
The guidance barred schools from discriminating against transgender kids or denying them access to the bathroom consistent with their gender identity, but the Justice and Education Departments rescinded it last week on the basis that transgender rights — which many consider the civil rights issue of the day — are best left to the states, not the federal government.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) struck a contrast with Schumer and expressed views similar to the administration’s when asked by the Washington Blade for reaction to the Trump administration’s transgender rollback.
“That’s obviously going to be handled at the state level,” McConnell said. “The states are perfectly competent to deal with that issue.”
With Democrats in the minority in both chambers of Congress, they have few options for action to compel the Trump administration to reverse course on the guidance, although the introduction of legislation could serve as a symbolic stand against the move.
One possible legislative response is the introduction of the Equality Act, comprehensive legislation barring anti-LGBT discrimination in areas such as employment, public accommodations and education. But the legislation isn’t yet introduced this Congress. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who in the past were lead sponsors of the bill, haven’t respond to the Washington Blade’s requests to comment on timing for introduction.
Meanwhile, friend-of-the-court briefs are due Thursday in the case before the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of Gavin Grimm, the transgender student suing his Virginia school to use the restroom consistent with his gender identity. A bipartisan, bicameral brief led by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) urging the court to rule for Gavin is circulating in Congress in preparation for that deadline, a source familiar the brief said.