Outward

Eleven States Sue Federal Government to Keep Trans Kids Out of School Bathrooms

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launched a lawsuit against the federal government on Wednesday, suing to block the Obama administration’s recent trans rights directive. The directive urged public schools to let trans students use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, affirming the Department of Education’s interpretation of existing federal law to bar anti-trans discrimination. Any schools that violate the directive risk losing federal education funding. Ten other states joined Texas’ suit, which named the Education, Labor, and Justice Departments—as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—as defendants. The states have asked a federal court to declare the directive invalid and block it permanently. They allege that the directive erroneously interprets federal law—and that it violates the 10th Amendment, the 14th Amendment, and state sovereign immunity.

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If recent history is any guide, the federal government will vehemently defend its directive in response to Texas’ attack. When North Carolina sued the Justice Department to preserve its anti-trans law, Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke “directly to the transgender community itself” to assure them that the administration had its back:

Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time. It may not be easy—but we’ll get there together.

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In contrast, Paxton had this to say about the administration’s directive earlier in May:

Once again, the Obama Administration has overstepped its constitutional bounds to meddle in the affairs of state and local government. Today’s announcement seeking to unilaterally redefine and expand federal law must be challenged. If President Obama thinks he can bully Texas schools into allowing men to have open access to girls in bathrooms, he better prepare for yet another legal fight.

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Incidentally, Paxton is currently battling serious accusations of wrongdoing related to the secret commissions he made from a technology company during his time as a state legislator. Paxton raised $840,000 for the tech startup without disclosing to investors that he was being compensated for his efforts, as is legally required. He has since been indicted by a Texas grand jury on securities fraud charges and charged with securities fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Unlike Paxton, Lynch has not been indicted for securities fraud. She did, however, vigorously prosecute white-collar crime, securities fraud, and wire fraud during her years as a U.S. attorney. 

Update, May 25, 2016: This post has been updated with additional information about the lawsuit.

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