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A federal judge has ruled that Biden administration guidelines requiring employers to provide protections for LGBTQ employees go too far, in a win for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who brought suit against the rules last fall.
The rules were first issued after the landmark ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex or religion, includes protection for gay and transgender people.
In 2021, the Biden administration released guidance around the ruling, noting that disallowing transgender employees to dress and use pronouns and bathrooms consistent with their gender identity constituted sex discrimination.
Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Donald Trump-appointed U.S. district court judge for the Northern District of Texas, found that Title VII prohibits employment discrimination against an individual for being gay or transgender, “but not necessarily all correlated conduct,” including use of pronouns, dress and bathrooms.
Earlier this year, after Paxton issued a nonbinding legal opinion that gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors could be considered child abuse, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra released additional guidance that federally funded agencies can’t restrict people from accessing “medically necessary care, including gender-affirming care, from their health care provider solely on the basis of their sex assigned at birth or gender identity.” Kacsmaryk also ruled to vacate that guidance.
The decision “is not only a win for the rule of law, but for the safety and protection of Texas children,” Paxton said in a statement. “The Biden Administration’s attempts to radicalize federal law to track its woke political beliefs are beyond dangerous.”
The ruling was a victory for Paxton in his campaign to challenge the rights of transgender Texans. After Paxton’s opinion led to Gov. Greg Abbott directing the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate families of transgender children for child abuse, the already struggling department was thrown further into crisis.
“This is government overreach at its worst,” Biden said in a statement after Abbott issued his directive. “These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop.”
Later in March, Paxton sued two pharmaceutical companies for “deceptively marketing” puberty blockers as a treatment for gender dysphoria. He has tried unsuccessfully to intervene in a suit brought by a doctor seeking to reopen a Dallas gender clinic. And Paxton’s views on transgender people are not limited to the courtroom: He’s been flagged by Twitter for “hateful conduct” for a series of tweets misgendering Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of health and a transgender woman.
Kacsmaryk is himself known for his opposition to expanding or protecting LGBTQ rights. Before being nominated to the bench, Kacsmaryk was the deputy general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal organization focused on religious liberty cases. In a 2015 article arguing against the Equality Act, Kacsmaryk wrote that the proposed legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity would “punish dissenters, giving no quarter to Americans who continue to believe that marriage and sexual relations are reserved to the union of one man and one woman.”
In a 2015 article for the National Catholic Register titled “The Abolition of Man … and Woman,” Kacsmaryk called the term gender identity “problematic” and wrote that, “The campaigns for same-sex ‘marriage’ and ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ (SOGI) legislation share a common legal theory: Rules predicated on the sexual difference and complementarity of man and woman are relics of a benighted legal regime designed to harm ‘LGBT’ persons, or at least deny them ‘full equality.’”
He was confirmed to the federal judiciary by the Senate in 2019 by a vote of 52-46.