11 states are suing Obama for supporting transgender rights

Barack Obama

Barack Obama AP

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas and 10 other states are suing the Obama administration over its directive to U.S. public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

The lawsuit announced Wednesday includes Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia. The challenge, which asks a judge to declare the directive unlawful, follows a federal directive to U.S. schools this month to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

The Obama administration has “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 commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights,” the lawsuit reads.

Many of the conservative states involved had previously vowed defiance, calling the guidance a threat to safety while being accused of discrimination by supporters of transgender rights. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said “there is no room in our schools for discrimination.”

Texas’ lieutenant governor has previously said the state is willing to forfeit $10 billion in federal education dollars rather than comply. The directive from the U.S. Justice and Education Departments represents an escalation in the fast-moving dispute over what is becoming the civil rights issue of the day.

Pressed about whether he knew of any instances in which a child’s safety had been threatened because of transgender bathroom rights, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said “there’s not a lot of research.” He said he his office has heard from concerned parents, but didn’t say how many, and said he did not meet with any parents of transgender students before filing the lawsuit.

Two school districts joined the states in the lawsuit: one is the tiny Harrold school district in North Texas, which has 100 students and passed a policy this week requiring students to use the bathroom based on the gender on their birth certificate. Superintendent David Thweatt said his schools have no transgender students to his knowledge but defended the district taking on the federal government.

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