Elected officials in 11 different states have announced a joint lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s decree that all public schools must allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.
The lawsuit is being filed in the Federal District Court of North Texas. Plaintiffs include the state governments of Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Utah, along with Gov. Paul LePage of Maine and the Arizona Department of Education. Notably, West Virginia and Louisiana are participating even though both have Democratic governors.
The suit comes just 12 days after the Departments of Education and Justice announced they would henceforth interpret the federal Title IX law as prohibiting all discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The department’s interpretation means that all public schools in the country must allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, or else risk losing federal funding.
“Our local schools are now in the crosshairs of the Obama Administration, which maintains it will punish those schools who do not comply with its orders,” Texas attorney general Ken Paxton said in a statement announcing the suit. “This represents just the latest example of the current administration’s attempts to accomplish by executive fiat what they couldn’t accomplish through the democratic process in Congress. By forcing through his policies by executive action, President Obama excluded the voice of the people. We stand today to ensure those voices are heard.”
The suit was not a surprise, as the backlash by Republicans to Obama’s order has been intense at both the state and national level. It’s also not surprising that Texas is leading the charge against the order, as the state has repeatedly been involved in challenges to executive orders by Obama. For example, a Texas lawsuit has been responsible for halting the implementation of Obama’s executive order governing deportations.
There is a reasonable possibility that the lawsuit could make it all the way to the Supreme Court, as it is currently unclear whether laws banning sex discrimination apply to gender identity as well as biological sex. The Obama administration is optimistic that its interpretation will prevail, based on recent court rulings that have been favorable to transgender students seeking to use opposite sex bathrooms and locker rooms without restriction.
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