The Transgender Bathroom Block Is Proof Hillary Clinton Needs My Vote
On Sunday, a federal judge in Texas blocked the Obama administration's transgender bathroom guidelines, which would have given transgender students the right to use whatever restroom at school corresponds to their gender identity. Judge Reed O'Connor, who was appointed by George W. Bush, ruled in favor of the 13 states challenging the Department of Education's guideline, but the decision will have repercussions beyond the plaintiff states. The ruling marks a victory for social conservatives, but people who care about trans rights should take it as a warning and a reminder of how important this presidential election is.
Tierny Sneed of Talking Points Memo noted, "The order placed a nationwide injunction on the policy, and said that the administration cannot force the states challenging the directive to implement the policy." Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern further unpacked the legal implications. While the immediate fallout revolves just around bathroom and locker room use, “the thrust of O’Connor’s ruling is much broader: The judge holds that Title IX’s ban on ‘sex discrimination’ in federally funded schools may never legally be interpreted to protect ‘transgendered students.’” (Stern is careful to point out that “transgendered” is in fact a wrong and offensive term for Reed to have used.)
By coincidence, this decision came down just as Matthew Yglesias published a piece at Vox.com, “Hillary Clinton will likely have a unique chance to remake the federal judiciary.” In it, he asserts that "an odd confluence of circumstances — the elimination of the filibuster for judicial nominees followed by the 2014 midterms leading to an utterly intransigent GOP Senate majority — in President Barack Obama’s second term means that a Clinton administration and a Democratic Senate will face an unusually large number of vacancies and have an unusually easy time filling them.”
While I’m not yet in a place where I’m willing to take Democratic victories in the White House or the Senate for granted, Yglesias’ point is well-taken. I take comfort in my belief that most Clinton judicial appointees would be less likely to issue such a tone-deaf ruling on LGBTQ rights as I've seen come from O'Connor.
Voters can be so focused on the immediately pressing topics and concerns that court appointments are rarely decisive electoral factors. Rulings like the one from O'Connor remind us that they should be. The long-term effects of judicial appointments can’t be overstated, and in the frenzy of presidential electoral politics, it can be hard to lose sight of the long game. But for anyone who is thinking about taking their (totally valid) dissatisfaction with the Democrats to their polling location, the question might be as simple as this: Do you want more judges like Reed O’Connor, or fewer?
Image: Bustle/Dawn Foster