Protecting the Rights of Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students

The Department of Justice and the Department of Education jointly issued a letter on February 22 withdrawing guidance from the Obama administration that protected the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students to use the single-sex facility (such as a restroom) consistent with their gender identity.

I am writing to inform the CUNY community that this reversal does not alter CUNY’s policy of non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. We are also governed by state and local law, which have been clear on this issue.  As Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stated in response to the new policy, “As the federal government seeks to roll back the progress we have achieved toward equality, we in New York will never stop fighting to ensure the LBGTQ community and all Americans are afforded the equal protections guaranteed to them by the United States constitution.”

The New York City Human Rights law provides comprehensive protections for students and employees against discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender identity or expression, and interpretive guidance addresses the need to allow persons to use single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity or expression.   Employees are also protected under State law and regulations, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and require covered entities, including CUNY, to allow employees to use the restroom or other facility that corresponds to their gender identity.

Throughout CUNY, our campuses and a Gender Identity Working Group are working to create and maintain safe and inclusive environments, including by posting appropriate signage at single-sex and single-occupancy facilities, and making available all-gender single-occupancy restrooms and locker rooms.  CUNY’s commitment to a diverse and welcoming environment remains strong and it is not affected by the Trump administration’s guidance.

If you have any questions about these issues, you may contact me or Senior Litigation Counsel Hilary Klein at


Jane Sovern
Interim General Counsel and Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs
The City University of New York