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Obama administration hit with 11-state lawsuit in transgender bathroom battle

The lawsuit accused the White House of overstepping its authority.


Dell Cameron


Posted on May 25, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 5:27 pm CDT

Eleven states filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the Obama administration’s stand against state laws prohibiting transgender students in public schools from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.

The lawsuit accuses Attorney General Loretta Lynch; Education Secretary John King; and the Departments of Education, Justice, and Labor with transforming “workplaces 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 litigation, filed Wednesday in a Dallas courtroom, further accuses the Obama administration of overstepping its executive authority by reinterpreting longstanding federal laws. 

“The new rules, regulations, guidance, and interpretations described herein go so far beyond any reasonable reading of the relevant Congressional text such that the new rules, regulations, guidance, and interpretations functionally exercise lawmaking power reserved only to Congress,” it says.

Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and West Virginia are all party to the litigation, in addition to Maine Gov. Paul LePage, the Arizona Department of Education, and one Texas and one Arizona school district.

The Justice Department was not prepared to comment on the lawsuit at press time. 

Earlier this month, Lynch delivered what is widely considered to be a landmark speech in the fight for transgender equality, fiercely rebuking North Carolina’s recently passed bathroom law—commonly referred to as “House Bill 2” or “HB2”—which limits the access of transgender individuals to bathrooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate.

Lynch’s speech, which likened HB2 to “Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation,” followed the announcement of a Justice Department lawsuit targeting the state of North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory, along with the state’s Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina.

“We have seen bill after bill in state after state taking aim at the LGBT community,” Lynch said. “Some of these responses reflect a recognizably human fear of the unknown, and a discomfort with the uncertainty of change. But this is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion, and open-mindedness.”

A letter co-signed by the Justice and Education Departments less than two weeks ago, which was described as “significant guidance,” advised public schools to comply with Title IX, which prohibits “sex discrimination in educational programs and activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance.”

Those that comply do not risk losing federal funding, the departments have said. 

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*First Published: May 25, 2016, 2:45 pm CDT