Education

House Republicans Demand Answers From Obama On Bathroom Policy

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Blake Neff Reporter

A group of House Republicans sent a letter to the Obama administration demanding it explain the reasoning behind a recent order compelling every public school in the country to accept transgender bathroom usage.

The Obama administration sparked a massive row with Republicans in May when it issued a “Dear Colleague” letter decreeing that all public schools in the country allow students to use a bathroom that aligns with their preferred gender identity, rather than being restricted based on their biological sex. The administration justified the decree by stating it was necessary for complying with Title IX, a 1972 law barring sex discrimination in schools receiving federal funds.

Several state governments have already challenged the Obama administration’s reasoning. Several House Republicans are pitching themselves into the fray as well, sending a letter to the administration demanding its justification for rewriting national bathroom policy based on a 44-year-old law.

The letter, sent Monday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Secretary of Education John King, is signed by Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, along with Reps. Todd Rokita and Virginia Foxx, who chair subcommittees dedicated to K-12 education and college education, respectively.

The letter asks a series of pointed questions about how the Obama administration justifies its bathroom order, with the intent of showing that the law is based on a warping of existing statutes.

For instance, the administration has argued Title IX justifies the order because a ban on sex discrimination also amounts to a ban on all discrimination related to gender identity. But the letter notes that, in 2013, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act and included a non-discrimination clause that treated sex and gender identity as separate categories. That law’s wording, the letter suggests, is powerful evidence against the Obama administration’s rhetoric.

“This provision … clearly shows congressional intent to include ‘gender identity’ and ‘sex’ as separate classes under federal nondiscrimination law,”  the letter says. “In light of this, provide justification for your decision to ignore this clear expression of congressional intent in your interpretation of Title IX.”

The letter asks the Obama administration to divulge a host of internal emails and memos relating to how the order was created, which could potentially provide ammo for Republican critics trying to undermine the law.

Besides questioning the legality of the new decree, the letter also criticizes the administration’s legal reasoning and suggests it’s put schools in a bind where they may end up violating Title IX no matter what they do.

“This new guidance appears to present the possibility of competing Title IX claims if, for example, a female sexual assault survivor feels threatened using bathroom or locker room facilities with a biological male,” the letter says. “How will you advise schools to address this possibility?”

The letter isn’t the first one in which Republicans in Congress have pressured the Obama administration to justify its interpretation of Title IX. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma has sent multiple letters to the Department of Education disputing a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter that requires schools to apply a low standard of evidence in assessing sexual assault claims.

Kline, Rokita and Foxx request that the administration reply to their questions within two weeks.

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