The Trump administration's decision to rescind federal guidelines allowing transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity drew sharp criticism from local LGBTQ advocates.
The decision announced Wednesday night reversed guidelines issued last spring by former President Barack Obama, that instructed public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.
But transgender students in Massachusetts may not be as impacted by the decision as students in other states.
Gov. Charlie Baker in July signed into law a transgender public accommodations law that allows people in Massachusetts to use bathroom facilities based on their gender identity.
Lizzy Guyton, a spokeswoman for Baker said the federal guideline will not impact the state’s law and “. . . protections for schools and families will remain in place for the Commonwealth.”
“The Baker-Polito Administration believes no one should be discriminated against based on their gender identity,” Guyton wrote in an e-mail.
Angela Dallara, spokeswoman for Freedom Massachusetts, an advocacy group that supported the state law, said the federal decision shows the importance of local action.
“It shows how important these local protections are because if the administration is not going to be friendly, states need to support transgender people,” she said.
But local activists fear the federal ruling jeopardizes the progress made in LBGTQ rights nationally, opening the door to discrimination of transgender students.
“The fact that the administration is rolling back protection for the most vulnerable in our communities is sending a message that no one is safe,” said Grace Sterling Stowell, executive director of the Boston Alliance of LBGTQ.
The decision, she said, sends a message that transgender individuals “are not as important and their lives will not be protected.”
Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, denounced the change in a statement.
“Today’s federal withdrawal of guidance is sadly a departure from what many of the nation’s educators, school administrators, health professionals, and students know to be true: that access to affirming schools is a mater of safety, health and wellness for transgender youth.”
The coalition and other advocacy groups have planned a rally Thursday, 6 p.m., at Post Office Square in support of transgender students.
“We all have to support each other,” said Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, whose group plans to participate in the rally.
She called the federal decision, “unnecessary, unfair and cruel.”
But Andrew Beckwith, chief legal counsel for Keep MA Safe, said he is pleased by the federal decision. The transgender bathroom guidelines, and the Massachusetts law, violate privacy and put the safety of residents at risk, he said.
“It puts the gender identity agenda ahead of the safety and privacy of all women and children in particular,” he said. “Even if someone has no intention of doing something wrong, just the fact the law is now going to force women to disrobe in the same room as anatomical men, regardless of how they identify, is a real blow to women’s privacy and their right to have a private space.”
“As a husband and a father,” he added, “that concerns me.”
Keep MA Safe, a group working to repeal the state law, has gathered enough signatures to put a referendum on the November 2018 ballot.
The federal decision could boost chances of a repeal, Beckwith said.
“It’s definitely encouraging,” he said. “I think it’s a breath of sanity on this issue that has been kind of run away as of late.”