There were scores of pressing queries for the White House press corps to put to presidential spokesman Sean Spicer at Wednesday’s daily briefing: President Trump’s new immigration restrictions, relations with Mexico, China and Russia, tax reform, ObamaCare, the fight against Islamic terror.
So what was the first question from the D.C.-based journalists in attendance? Bathrooms.
As Bellwether noted last week, several state legislatures were dismayed, during the closing year of the Obama administration, to receive a letter from the Departments of Justice and Education instructing them to let students who claim to be transgender use whatever bathrooms, locker rooms and showers they want, based solely on which gender they feel they are. States that refused to comply were threatened with a cutoff of federal funds.
Some states, while recognizing the rights of legitimate transgender students, are just as concerned about the vast majority of citizens who know what gender they are, and don’t want to be put in embarrassing situations just because they have to go.
The Trump administration is widely expected, sometime this week, to rescind those Obama-era instructions, and let individual states deal with the issue as they see fit.
But the journalists in the White House briefing room would not be denied their bathroom talk. Why, asked one, was this issue a priority for the administration.
“It’s not a priority,” answered Spicer, pointing out that the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case this week involving transgender rights, and the new administration has to decide before then whether to continue, or amend, the Obama-era guidance.
For a president who seemed able to read the mood of flyover country as a candidate, President Trump might want to consider if accommodating transgender students, to the potential detriment of others, is a burning issue with the “forgotten Americans” who supported him.
Texas, which voted for Trump and is considering a state law that requires people to use the bathroom assigned to them according to the gender on their birth certificate, is an example. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told me last week, “This is not a law aimed at discriminating against transgenders. It’s aimed at sex offenders who could use this to pretend they’re transgenders. It’s intended to protect the right of a woman not to have to share a bathroom with a man if she doesn’t want to.”
Women’s groups, in particular victims of rape or domestic abuse, are now speaking out against the notion that female high school students might have to share showers or locker room facilities with males who declare themselves girls, regardless of what their anatomy suggests.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is trying to ignore interference by sports associations like the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. Both have hinted strongly that if the proposed legislation is passed into law, Texas will not get to host major sports events like All-Star games or the Super Bowl.
Why the leagues – or, for that matter, the White House press corps -- think they know what’s best for Texas is as much a mystery as how the Patriots came from 25 points down to win the Super Bowl last month. For the record, that game was held in Houston.
John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News. A former Rome bureau chief for Time magazine, he is the author of four books including "Pope John Paul II : Biography."