Eleven US states fight order on transgender bathroom policy
Officials sue government over directive allowing students use facilities matching gender
A gender neutral bathroom in Washington, DC. Barack Obama’s administration on May 13th told US public schools that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Officials from 11 US states sued president Barack Obama’s administration on Wednesday, seeking to overturn a directive from the federal government that public schools should allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity.
Ramping up the simmering battles over contentious cultural issues in the US, the states, led by Texas, accused the federal government of rewriting laws by “administrative fiat”.
“Defendants have conspired to turn workplace and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over common-sense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit accused the federal government of overstepping its constitutional powers by taking actions that should be left to Congress or individual states.
Amid a national debate on transgender rights, Mr Obama’s administration on May 13th told US public schools that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice, upsetting Republicans and raising the likelihood of fights over federal funding and legal authority.
Nine of the 11 states are led by Republican governors.
The state of Texas is the lead plaintiff and was joined by Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia, plus the Arizona Department of Education and the governor of Maine.
School districts from Texas and Arizona also joined the suit, which names the US government and a host of federal agencies and officials as defendants.
Alison Gill, the vice-chair of the Trans United Fund, a political advocacy group, said the states’ challenge did not reflect the position of most school boards and administrators, who have come out in favour of the administration’s order.
“This action puts students at risk for the sake of politics,” Ms Gill said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said, “President Obama has no business setting locker room and restroom policies for our schools.”
“School policies should be determined by individual states, educators and parents – not dictated by a presidential decree,” added West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Since Mr Obama took office in January 2009, Texas, the most populous Republican-controlled state, has filed suit against his administration more than three dozen times.
Texas also is the lead state in the high-profile lawsuit against Mr Obama’s executive action to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation and provide them work permits that the Supreme Court is due to rule on by the end of June.
That suit accused Mr Obama of exceeding his presidential powers at the expense of the Republican-led US Congress.
Texas also has sued the federal government on issues including US Environmental Protection Agency regulations, taxes under Mr Obama’s signature healthcare law and blocking the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state.