Transgender students will be protected, Gov. Baker says

Gov. Charlie Baker expressed disappointment with the Trump administration's new transgender policy. — File photo by Sam Moore

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts expressed disappointment with the Trump administration’s new transgender policy, and state Attorney General Maura Healey invited President Trump to visit Massachusetts to see what the state’s transgender protection laws encompass, according to the State House News Service.

On Feb. 22, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education withdrew a May 2016 Obama administration order to the nation’s schools to treat all students in accordance with their declared gender identity, as opposed to their sex at birth.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice said the 2016 guidance did not “contain extensive legal analysis,” and a federal judge in Texas blocked enforcement of the Obama administration guidance nationwide.

“The action taken today by the Trump administration is encouraging, and my office is evaluating what impact it might bear on our ongoing litigation,” Ken Paxton, Texas attorney general, said in a statement last Wednesday. “Our fight over the bathroom directive has always been about former President Obama’s attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit his political agenda for radical social change.”

The federal change will have no direct effect on students in Massachusetts, according to the Baker administration. State laws passed in 2011 and 2016 grant antidiscrimination protections to transgender people in Massachusetts.

“I’m disappointed with the decision that the administration made to roll that back. I obviously don’t support the message, and I don’t believe it’s the right message,” Governor Baker said. “But I do believe that here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts — and this is an important message for us to share with our colleagues in education and our colleagues in the community — that here in Massachusetts, kids are going to be protected, and kids are going to be able to feel safe and secure in the communities they live in and the schools that they go to.”

Attorney General Healey charged that the Trump administration is targeting children, and added that she is “very serious” about her invitation to Trump to visit Massachusetts. She also extended the invitation to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose offices issued the letter withdrawing the Obama administration guidance.

“I think it’s symbolic that the first order of business by our new United States attorney general was to go after vulnerable kids, and in particular transgender students,” Attorney General Healy said.

She referred to a recent study that showed that states that passed civil rights protections saw “significant and immediate” declines in suicide attempts by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, and others also condemned the rollback.