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Transgender TV ad scheduled for Trump’s big night at the RNC

Mark Keierleber | July 21, 2016

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LGBT advocates are looking to reach and persuade conservative voters tonight with a prime-time TV ad about transgender discrimination that’s set to air on Fox News around the time Donald Trump is accepting the Republican party’s nomination for president.

The ad features a transgender woman from North Carolina who is prevented from using a restroom that corresponds with her gender identity — calling out the controversial state law that bars people from using restrooms that do not correspond with the gender on their birth certificates. However, the ad also speaks to debates — and lawsuits — that have boiled up in schools across the country. One of those lawsuits, filed against a school district in Virginia, is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Despite a GOP platform that opposes the Obama administration’s take on transgender student rights, Donald Trump’s stance on the issue is somewhat unclear. At first, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee appeared to drift away from the Republican base, saying Americans should be able to use whichever bathroom they feel comfortable with.

But he later backed away from that stance, telling TV personality Jimmy Kimmel states should be able to decide on their own.

• Read more on the live blog: The 74 and Bellwether Education Partners are partnering to cover both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

The stance of Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is far more straightforward. Pence became a household name when he signed a “religious freedom” bill in 2015 that said religious business owners were not required to participate in same-sex weddings, a stance opponents called discrimination against LGBT customers.

Throughout his time in office, the Obama administration has played a big role in extending protections for LGBT students — from the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign to guidelines for schools to address transgender bathroom issues.

A joint “dear colleague” letter from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice delivered in May said Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs, applies to a student’s gender identity. The Department of Education also released a set of guidelines.

“This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity,” read the letter. “The Departments’ interpretation is consistent with courts’ and other agencies’ interpretations of Federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination.”

In response, Pence called the guidelines another example of federal overreach: “I have long believed that education is a state and local function. Policies regarding the security and privacy of students in our schools should be in the hands of Hoosier parents and local schools, not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. The federal government has no business getting involved in issues of this nature.”

Last week, a Virginia school board called on the U.S. Supreme Court to halt an April decision by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the school district’s bathroom policy violated Title IX when officials said high school junior Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, was barred from using the boys’ restroom.

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