US & World

11 states sue over Obama's school transgender directive

The so-called
The so-called "bathroom battle" erupted after North Carolina in March became the first US state to require transgender people to use restrooms in public buildings that match the sex on their birth certificate, rather than the gender by which they identify.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

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.

Some conservative states have 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.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed the lawsuit at a book signing hours before the state's Republican attorney general was scheduled to formally announce the challenge at a Wednesday news conference.

"His lawsuit is challenging the way that the Obama administration is trampling the United States Constitution," Abbott told reporters.

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. The guidance was issued after the Justice Department and North Carolina sued each other overs a state law that requires transgender people to use the public bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate. The law applies to schools and many other places.

Supporters say such measures are needed to protect women and children from sexual predators, while the Justice Department and others argue the threat is practically nonexistent and the law discriminatory

Texas was a likely candidate to rush to the courthouse first. Abbott sued the Obamaadministration more than two dozen times when he was attorney general, a pace that his successor, Republican Ken Paxton, has kept up since taking office last year.