College dorms a new front in U.S. battle over transgender rights


A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California Irvine campus in Irvine, California, United States on September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

– June 10, 2016

As lawmakers across the United States battle over whether to allow transgender Americans to use public restrooms that match their gender identities, universities are scrambling to ensure that dorms meet federal standards.

At a time of year when the nation’s 2,100 residential colleges and universities are sorting out student housing assignments, they also are poring over a May letter from the Obama administration that thrusts them into the national debate on transgender rights.

Known as the “dear colleague” letter, it makes clear that federal law protects transgender students’ right to live in housing that reflects their gender identity.

Schools that fail to provide adequate housing to transgender students could face lawsuits or the loss of any federal funding they rely on.