The Trump administration on Monday responded to a report that it seeks to roll back protections for transgender people by citing a 2016 court ruling that struck down an Obama-era rule that defined sex as binding precedent that it will follow.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Health and Human Services sent a memo to government agencies that adopts a narrower definition of gender that essentially eliminates protections for transgender people granted during the Obama administration. The memo said that gender should be defined as male or female at birth and is immutable.
HHS did not rebut the New York Times report, but did say on Monday that it has to abide by a 2016 federal court ruling that struck down a rule outlining a "broad definition of 'sex'" from the Obama administration, spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said.
“We do not comment on alleged, leaked documents that purport to indicate the status of deliberations or the focus of the department,” she added.
The court found that the regulation was “overly broad and inconsistent” with the federal Title IX law that prohibits discrimination based on sex.
“The court order remains in full force and effect today and HHS is bound by it as we continue to review the issue,” Oakley said. "Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and HHS’s Office for Civil Rights will continue to vigorously enforce all laws as written and passed by Congress, prohibiting discrimination in healthcare on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, and disability.”
The New York Times report ignited major criticism of HHS from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups.
"This is an attempt to roll back civil rights," said Rea Carey, executive director of the advocacy group National LGBTQ Task Force, in a statement. "Anyone who does not conform to rigid gender stereotypes could be at risk. Everyone deserves rights and protection."