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US President Donald Trump’s administration revokes Transgender Bathroom Rules

Donald Trump's administration revoked landmark guidance to the country's schools letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice

FILE - A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham, N.C., May 3, 2016. VOA

Washington, Feb 23, 2017: US President Donald Trump’s administration revoked landmark guidance to the country’s schools letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice, reversing a signature initiative of former President Barack Obama.

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In a joint letter on Wednesday, the top civil rights officials from the Justice Department and the Education Department rejected the Obama administration’s position that non-discrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, the New York Times reported.

The two-page “Dear colleague” letter from the Trump administration, was sent to the nation’s public schools and it did not offer any new guidance.

Instead, it said that the earlier directive needed to be withdrawn because it lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges, the New York Times report said.

The letter stated that the earlier directive was improperly and arbitrarily devised, “without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy”.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said: “We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that his department “has a duty to enforce the law” and criticised the Obama administration’s guidance as lacking sufficient legal basis, reported ABC News.

Sessions wrote that the Department of Justice remains committed to the “proper interpretation” and and enforcement of the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”

Gay rights supporters made their displeasure clear after the move. Outside the White House, several hundred people protested the decision, waving rainbow flags and chanting, “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here”.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “Transgender young people face tragically high rates of discrimination and bullying, and they need a government that will stand up for them — not attack them.”

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American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) LGBT project director James Esseks said: “Revoking the guidance shows that the President’s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric… School districts that recognise that should continue doing the right thing; for the rest, we’ll see them in court.”

The new letter scrambled the calculus for a number of lawsuits working their way through the courts, particularly the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia teenager who sued his school board for barring him from the boys’ restroom.

The case is scheduled for oral arguments before the US Supreme Court in March. Grimm said he was disheartened that the Trump administration is withdrawing Obama’s guidance which was “incredibly empowering”. (IANS)

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Washington Becomes First State to Approve Net-neutrality Rules

“We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so,”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks after signing a bill, March 5, 2018, in Olympia, Washington, that makes Washington the first state to set up its own net-neutrality requirements in response to the FCC's recent repeal of Obama-era rules. VOA

Washington became the first state Monday to set up its own net-neutrality requirements after U.S. regulators repealed Obama-era rules that banned internet providers from blocking content or impairing traffic.

“We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so,” Gov. Jay Inslee said before signing the measure that lawmakers passed with bipartisan support. “We know how important this is.”

The Federal Communications Commission voted in December to gut U.S. rules that meant to prevent broadband companies such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.

ALSO READ: What will be the Fate of Net Neutrality after Being Repealed?

Because the FCC prohibited state laws from contradicting its decision, opponents of the Washington law have said it would lead to lawsuits.

Inslee said he was confident of its legality, saying “the states have a full right to protect their citizens.” Pixabay

Oregon law has not been signed

The new law also requires internet providers to disclose information about their management practices, performance, and commercial terms. Violations would be enforceable under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

While several states introduced similar measures this year seeking to protect net neutrality, only Oregon and Washington passed bills. But Oregon’s measure wouldn’t put any new requirements on internet providers.

It would stop state agencies from buying internet service from any company that blocks or prioritizes specific content or apps, starting in 2019. It’s unclear when Oregon’s measure would be signed into law.

Washington state was among more than 20 states and the District of Columbia that sued in January to try and block the FCC’s action. There are also efforts by Democrats to undo the move in Congress.

Governors in five states — Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana, and Vermont — have signed executive orders related to net-neutrality issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Zuckerberg in favor of 100 percent net neutrality

Expect new rules by mid-June

Big telecom companies have said net neutrality rules could undermine investment in broadband and introduce uncertainty about what are acceptable business practices. Net-neutrality advocates say the FCC decision would harm innovation and make it harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests.

The FCC’s new rules are not expected to go into effect until later this spring. Washington’s law will take effect mid-June.

Messages left with the Broadband Communications Association of Washington, which opposed the bill, were not immediately returned. (VOA)