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The Obama administration on May 13 told U.S. public schools that transgender students must have access to bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. (Photo: Getty)

'Shameful Attack on Transgender Youth': 11 States Sue Feds over Bathrooms

Lawsuit accuses Obama administration of 'running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children'

Deirdre Fulton

Eleven states are suing the Obama administration over its recent directive requiring public schools to grant transgender students access to bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the lawsuit Wednesday on Twitter and NBC News reports that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican "who was charged with securities fraud last month in federal court, was scheduled to make a formal announcement at a 3 pm press conference in Austin."

According to the New York Times, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include nine states—Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin—as well as the governor of Maine, Paul R. LePage; the Arizona Department of Education; and school districts in Arizona and Texas.

The lawsuit (pdf), which names the U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, and Labor, charges that "Defendants have conspired to turn workplaces 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 joint guidance from the Departments of Education (DOE) and Justice (DOJ) did not lay out any new policy or propose any new law, but "makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student's gender identity as the student's sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX," according to a DOJ statement. The federal anti-discrimination law in education, Title IX, says that schools receiving federal funds may not discriminate based on a student's sex.

The Associated Press notes that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick "has said the state is willing to forfeit $10 billion in federal education dollars rather than comply."

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) blasted Paxton on Wednesday for launching what the LGBTQ-rights group called "a shameful attack on transgender youth across the state and the nation."

"Ken Paxton has already disgraced himself and his office by undermining the rule of law and shamefully encouraging state officials to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision last June," said HRC communications director Jay Brown. "Now, he's gone so far as to attack transgender youth, whom he has a responsibility to protect as Attorney General."

"Countless schools all across the country have policies in place that ensure transgender students are safe, protected from discrimination and can live authentic lives," he added. "Ken Paxton's use of taxpayer resources to dismantle such protections is a reckless and expensive abdication of his responsibilities, and he should be held accountable."

James Esseks, director of the ACLU's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project, echoed that outrage. "This lawsuit is an attack from eleven states on transgender Americans, plain and simple," he said. "While the Obama administration is being sued, the real targets here are vulnerable young people and adults who simply seek to live their lives free from discrimination when they go to school, work or the restroom."

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