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Fort Worth Court Hears School Transgender Bathroom Arguments

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - The fight over bathroom rights for transgender students will take center stage in a Fort Worth courtroom today. In a federal lawsuit, Texas and 11 other states are asking the court to stop the Obama administration directive concerning bathroom rights for transgender students in public schools.

In May, officials with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice said that schools have an obligation to treat transgender students in a way that matches their gender identity. From that the Obama administration directed that public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

One day after the directive was issued, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, "There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex."

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in institutions that receive federal funding. So while the decree is not law, it does suggest there could be legal action or a loss of federal aid for schools that do not comply.

During the hearing happening today, just 10 days out from the start of the new school year, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor will hear arguments over the states' request for a preliminary injunction to halt the Obama directive.

State Republican leaders accuse the government of undoing "privacy safeguards". The government argues that Texas has no standing to ask for an injunction, since the directive is a suggestion and isn't legally binding.

Judge O'Connor will hear augments but may or may not make an immediate decision.

The hearing in Fort Worth is happening one week after the U.S. Supreme ruled that a Virginia school board could temporarily block a transgender teen from using the boys' restroom.

Here in North Texas, the transgender bathroom debate started in April, when officials in the City of Rockwall considered an ordinance to would require residents to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender listed on their birth certificate, not the sex which they identify with as an adult. Ultimately, the City Council rejected Mayor Jim Pruitt's proposal.

Then just weeks later, and to the ire of Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner established new guidelines stating that students in the district should be recognized and have access to the bathroom that is consistent with "the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts."

While it isn't known exactly how many transgender students there are in the U.S., it is estimated that there are some 1.4 million American adults who identify as transgender.

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