White House And N.C. Governor In War Of Words Over Transgender Guidance

May 14, 2016
Originally published on May 14, 2016 6:35 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There have been a number of strong reactions from around the country since Friday, when the Department of Education and the Justice Department issued a guidance concerning transgender students access to school facilities and programs. The direction cause regarding bathroom access caused a particular reaction.

Public schools were directed to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. The letter is not legally binding but the message was clear. Any school that ignores it risks losing federal funding. It immediately drew criticism from conservatives nationwide. Here's North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED yesterday. Gov. McCrory signed a bill in March requiring people in public schools and government buildings in his state to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex.

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PAT MCCRORY: I don't think the president has the authority by himself to make that decision because it's not just a matter of civil rights. It's also a matter of privacy.

MARTIN: Some of the harshest criticism came from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

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DAN PATRICK: He can keep his 30 pieces of silver. We will not yield to blackmail from the president of the United States.

MARTIN: White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded to Patrick's accusations at a press briefing on Friday.

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JOSH EARNEST: Well, I think this is does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to a statewide elected office.

MARTIN: He was referring to the fact that Lt. Gov. Patrick used to host a local radio show in Houston.

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EARNEST: So let's just walk through the facts here. The guidance does not add additional requirements to the applicable law. This is not an enforcement action. This is in response to extensive requests for guidance and for information and advice that have been put forward by school administrators and teachers and in some cases even parents.

MARTIN: Earnest said the use of the word transgender from the podium of the White House briefing room could be a sign of the changing political reality around transgender issues.

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EARNEST: There was some discussion about whether or not the word transgender had ever been uttered from the White House podium before. And I think that's a pretty apt illustration of how this debate is changing and has emerged.

So it's new to our political debate, but this is not new when you consider what school administrators have had to do to ensure the safety and security of every student at their school. They're looking for solutions. And solutions are exactly what were provided by the Department of Education in their letter today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.