Arizona has joined 10 other states in a federal lawsuit against President Barack Obama's mandate asking public K-12 schools and post-secondary schools to allow transgender children and youth use the locker room and bathroom of the gender they identify with.
The lawsuit calls Obama's mandate "federal overreach," and focuses on setting rules about who should enact these guidelines.
The lawsuit—which includes Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin—was presented by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas on behalf of the state's Department of Education. The Heber-Overgaard Unified School District
is a plaintiff as well, according to a press release from the superintendent's office. The suit comes after Obama and the Departments of Justice and Education said schools have to protect the rights of transgender students. Schools that discriminate transgender students could face losing federal funding
North Carolina recently issued an anti-LGBT law, House Bill 2
, which forces transgender individuals into bathrooms that differ from their preferred gender and prohibits cities from creating laws protecting LGBT people. The law, which the DOJ says discriminates and violates civil rights
, has fueled national debate about protection of transgender rights and alleged concerns from conservatives about people using the bathroom that doesn't match the sex they were assigned at birth.
The press release says,
The challenge seeks declaratory relief against a number of federal agencies in order to block the implementation of the administration’s unprecedented interpretation of the law.
“President Obama has no business setting locker room and restroom policies for our schools,” Brnovich says in a media statement. “Deciding how to protect our children and preserve their privacy, while balancing these complicated issues, is best done locally and not by some one-size-fits-all decree from Washington.”
“When Arizona students attend school, they deserve a safe environment that is free from bullying and discrimination, regardless of their gender identity,” Douglas says in a statement. “I know that our districts and schools have policies in place to ensure that is the case. The fact that the federal government has yet again decided that it knows what is best for every one of our local communities is insulting and, quite frankly, intolerable.”
On May 13, Obama issued guidance to K-12 and post-secondary schools around the country, instructing them to grant students access to Title IX facilities including restrooms, locker rooms, and showers based on their gender identity, the press release says.
The non-binding guidance broadly defines “gender identity” as “an individual’s internal sense of gender,” regardless of “the person’s sex assignment at birth.” The guidance also carried the threat of withholding federal funding if schools are found by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to be out of compliance.
In Tucson, Flowing Wells, Sunnyside and Tucson Unified school districts have added gender
identity and expression to their non-discrimination policies for staff, faculty and students.
Added after publication:
James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project issued this media statement,
“This lawsuit is an attack from eleven states on transgender Americans, plain and simple. 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."
“There have been no disruptions, increases in public safety incidents, nor invasions of privacy related to protections for transgender people. The federal agencies named in this lawsuit have not changed existing obligations under the law. Our civil rights laws, including Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, have long prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, and federal courts and agencies have long recognized that this includes protections for transgender people.”
“The Supreme Court has made clear that one cannot sue an agency just because they disagree with the agency’s guidance. If these attorneys general disagree with the agency’s interpretation of what the federal ban on sex discrimination means, they can make that argument to the court when it arises in a real case. This lawsuit is a political stunt.”