Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed an executive order Thursday reassuring transgender students of the protections afforded them under state law, his second action in as many days to limit the reach in Connecticut of policies enacted by the administration of President Donald Trump.
The conflicts come as Malloy is leaving Connecticut for Washington, D.C., to attend the four-day winter meeting of the National Governors Association, including a lunch Friday at the residence of Vice President Mike Pence and and a dinner Sunday evening at the White House with the president and first lady.
On Wednesday, the Democratic governor advised the heads of state law enforcement agencies, including college campus security forces, that they are not required to enforce federal immigration law, a reaction to the Trump administration’s more aggressive approach to deportations.
Malloy’s order Thursday is a pointed rebuke of Trump’s decision to overrule his own education secretary by rescinding federal protections for transgender students that allowed them to use bathrooms reflecting their gender identity.
“Discrimination, harassment, and bullying have no place in our classrooms or at our schools. Despite the actions taken by the federal government yesterday, the state of Connecticut remains committed to ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education in a safe, supportive and welcoming school environment,” Malloy said.
The order references a transgender rights law passed by the General Assembly at the governor’s urging in 2011, his first year in office. It passed without a single Republican vote, reflecting its place as a cultural wedge issue, even in the Northeast.
But a law easing the way for transgender people to obtain birth certificates and drivers’ licenses reflecting their gender identification passed with strong bipartisan support and little if any controversy in 2015.
Malloy’s order is a rebuke of the president, but it does not create a legal conflict with the Trump administration, which has noted that the issue of transgender protections is schools appropriately rests with the states. Trump’s action rescinds “guidance” that federal anti-discrimination law required access to sex-segregated facilities on the basis of gender identity rather than biological sex.
Shipman & Goodwin, a Hartford law firm that advises many school systems, posted an advisory stating, “For states such as Connecticut that have enacted non-discrimination laws protecting transgender students, the withdrawal of the federal guidance will have minimal impact on schools’ legal obligations.”
The New York Times reported that Trump acted at the behest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, setting aside the objections of his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who issued a statement Wednesday night saying every school in America has a “moral obligation” to protect all students from discrimination and bullying.
“President Trump is wrong to open the door to discrimination,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said. His action only serves to destabilize our schools and our communities, causing anxiety among vulnerable youth and emboldening those looking for an excuse to victimize others. Governor Malloy’s executive order reinforces Connecticut’s absolute commitment to equal protection.”