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  • Trans activists and supporters protest changes by the Trump administration in federal guidelines issued to public schools in defense of trans student rights.

    Trans activists and supporters protest changes by the Trump administration in federal guidelines issued to public schools in defense of trans student rights. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 March 2017

The show of support from religious leaders comes as the Supreme Court scrapped plans to hear a precedent-setting case.

As the Trump administration moves to roll back trans rights and protections, faith groups are joining the fight against transphobia. Religious groups, including 1,800 faith leaders, recently filed a legal brief defending LGBT rights.

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The legal brief filed by religious groups is part of a larger wave of support for transgender rights after the Trump administration scrapped a policy last month protecting the rights of transgender students under a federal law known as Title IX.

The brief has support from many Muslim and Jewish leaders who have come together denounce any justifications of discrimination on the basis of "religious freedom."

Muslims for Progressive Values wrote in a statement that the “belief in transgender equality (is) rooted in our understanding of our faith and the values at the heart of Islam, embodied in the commandment in the Holy Quran 5:8 to pursue justice.”

The statement added that the group interprets the Quran as “having no concept of assigned gender roles, gender-based behavior, or separation of the sexes, deeming any discrimination on such bases as cultural and not to be given any divine mandate.”

Meanwhile, the Jewish Theological Seminary, which have also signed the briefing, stated, “JTS is compelled to act in the face of state and federal actions which undermine the Jewish principle of human dignity (kevod haberiyot) as it relates to our LGBTQ students, teachers, family members, neighbors, and all those targeted in the larger community.”

“We are particularly distressed that the White House and Department of Justice have reversed existing government positions that provided protections to members of the LGBTQ community, in spite of President Trump’s earlier statements supporting LGBTQ rights,” the group continued. “A Justice Department that fails to advocate on behalf of vulnerable minorities subject to discrimination and even violence forfeits the right to be known by that name.”

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Other Muslim signatories include the Mecca Institute, Masjid al-Inshirah in Massachusetts and several MVP chapters. The brief has also been signed by the Rabbinical Assembly, the Episcopal Church the United Church of Christ, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

The show of support for trans rights from faith leaders comes as the U.S. Supreme Court canceled plans Monday to hear the case of Virginia trans teen Gavin Grimm, who launched a lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board with help from the American Civil Liberties Union.

In the wake of Trump’s order that reversed protections for trans students in schools, Grimms was prevented from using the washroom of his choice and was instead forced to use the one that corresponded with his “biological gender.”

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the same lower level appeals court that ruled in Grimms' favor last year.

The latest debate over trans rights shot into the spotlight after Trump reversed guidance, issued by the Obama administration in May 2016, that protected trans students' rights by barring sex discrimination in education.

Trump scrapped the measure, leaving policy decisions up to states and opening the door to a new wave of controversial "bathroom bills" requiring trans students to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological gender rather than the gender identify with and present.

According to the advocacy group National Center for Transgender Equality, nearly one-third of 27,000 trans adults surveyed in 2015 reported having avoided in the previous year eating and drinking so they wouldn't need to use the bathroom in public.

Fifty-nine percent said they had avoided bathrooms in the previous year because they were worried about confrontations and 12 percent said they had been harassed, attacked or sexually assaulted while using a bathroom.

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