On the campaign trail, Donald Trump broke with Republican Party orthodoxy by vowing to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans from violence and oppression. Soon after taking office, President Trump announced that he intended to continue enforcing an executive order his predecessor issued to protect L.G.B.T. people from workplace discrimination.
“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the L.G.B.T.Q. community,” the White House said in a statement on Jan. 31. Then along came Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
During his first week in office, Mr. Sessions halted the Justice Department’s efforts to defend in court the legality of the Obama administration’s guidance to school districts on how to provide a safe and inclusive environment for transgender students. A key part of that guidance advised school officials to allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity.
This week, Mr. Sessions and the Department of Education rescinded the guidance entirely. His baffling rationale was that it added to the confusion around an issue that has prompted spirited debates and legal fights around the country.
In fact, it did the opposite. Next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who has been fighting his Virginia school district for the right to use the boys’ restroom on campus. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice took the position that existing federal law already confers that right. Mr. Sessions has reversed the government’s course.
Of all the matters of consequence before the new attorney general, it is curious that Mr. Sessions made repealing this guidance, and abandoning its defense, priorities. He clashed earlier in the week with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who reportedly felt uneasy about rescinding the guidelines, a move that will make students vulnerable. After the two made their case to the president, Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general.
This is unsurprising. Mr. Trump has demonstrated time and again that his stated personal convictions are malleable. A genuine champion of gay and transgender rights would have steered clear of politicians like Mr. Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence, who have gone to great lengths to vilify and oppress gay and transgender Americans.