An executive order issued by President Donald Trump that revokes protections for transgender students in public schools has drawn opposing responses from many leading tech brands, including Apple, Google and Uber.
The executive order reverses former President Obama’s policy that allowed transgender students in public schools to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
In a letter of explanation, the Trump administration claimed Obama’s order was “improperly and arbitrarily devised … without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”
Tech companies were quick to respond.
“Apple believes everyone deserves a chance to thrive in an environment free from stigma and discrimination,” the company said in a statement. “We support efforts toward greater acceptance, not less, and we strongly believe that transgender students should be treated as equals. We disagree with any effort to limit or rescind their rights and protections.”
A statement from Google/Alphabet said: “We’ve long advocated for policies that provide equal rights and treatment for all. We’re deeply concerned to see a roll-back in transgender students’ rights.”
IBM’s statement included: “IBM has had an explicit policy of non-discrimination based on gender identity or expression since 2002, and we are opposed to discrimination in all its forms, including any policies that discriminate based on gender identity in education.”
Both Lyft and Uber also released statements. “Lyft opposes this action and, as always, stand in support of the LGBTQ community.”
Uber said it is “proud of [its] longstanding opposition to harmful initiatives aimed at the LGBT community … Uber will continue to speak out against discriminatory actions and in favor of good policy that champions equality and inclusion for all.”
Facebook also weighed in: “Facebook is a strong supporter of equality. We stand for ensuring equal rights for everyone, including transgender students, and will continue to advocate for more rights instead of fewer.”
Microsoft president Brad Smith (@BradSmi) tweeted: “Since Jan. 1, 1863, the federal government has played a vital role in protecting the rights of all Americans. Let’s not stop now. #LGBTQ”
Trump’s own education secretary, controversial cabinet pick Betsy DeVos, opposed revoking transgender protections in public schools but was ordered by the president to reverse her position, CNN reported. And although now publicly on board, she stressed in a statement that “At my direction, the [education] department’s Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.”
The administration’s latest decision will likely ramp up the feud between Silicon Valley and Washington, after Trump’s decision to tighten immigration policies was met by almost universal opposition from top tech brands that rely on highly educated and skilled immigrant engineers and technicians, as well as transgender workers.
Before last year’s election, one of Trump’s top technology advisers, angel investor Peter Thiel, appeared on stage at the Republican National Convention to warn party leaders about “culture wars” against the LGBT community. Thiel, who is gay, said the debate around bathroom access is a “distraction from our real problem[s].”