Texas judge halts federal transgender health protections

Two protesters hold up signs against passage of legislation in North Carolina, which limits the bathroom options for transgender people, during a rally in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 31, 2016. The rally drew around 100 people at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. (AP Photos/Skip Foreman)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge in Texas has ordered a halt to another Obama administration effort to strengthen transgender rights, this time over health rules that social conservatives say could force doctors to violate their religious beliefs.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor on Saturday granted a temporary injunction that stops federal health officials from enforcing rules that are intended to ban discrimination by doctors and hospitals against transgender persons.

O’Connor wrote in a 46-page ruling that the rules “likely violate” the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

O’Connor is the same judge who sided with Republican-controlled states earlier this year over transgender protections in public schools sought by the Obama administration.

That lawsuit centered on a federal directive requiring schools to let transgender students use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.