Friday 9 December 2016

Obama's school transgender directive challenged by 11 states

Published 26/05/2016 | 04:36

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announces the state's lawsuit to challenge President Obama's transgender toilet order (Austin American-Statesman/AP)
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announces the state's lawsuit to challenge President Obama's transgender toilet order (Austin American-Statesman/AP)

Texas and 10 other states are suing the Obama administration over its directive to schools to let transgender students use the toilets and changing rooms that match their gender identity.

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The lawsuit includes Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia.

It asks a North Texas court to declare the directive unlawful in what ranks among the most co-ordinated and visible legal challenges by states over the socially divisive issue of toilet rights for transgender persons.

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.

Many of the conservative states involved had previously vowed defiance, calling the guidance a threat to safety while being accused of discrimination by supporters of transgender rights.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch has previously said: "There is no room in our schools for discrimination."

The justice department said it would review the complaint and did not comment further.

The directive from the justice and education departments represents an escalation in the fast-moving dispute over what is becoming the civil rights issue of the day.

Pressed about whether he knew of any instances in which a child's safety had been threatened because of transgender bathroom rights, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said there was not much research on the issue.

He said he his office has heard from concerned parents, but he did not say how many, and admitted he did not meet with any parents of transgender students before drafting the lawsuit.

The states claim that the directive demands "seismic changes" in schools across the US and forces them to let students choose a toilet "that match their chosen 'gender identity' on any given day".

Two school districts joined the states in the lawsuit, including the tiny Harrold school district in North Texas, which has roughly 100 students and passed a policy this week requiring students to use the toilet based on the gender on their birth certificate.

Superintendent David Thweatt said his schools have no transgender students to his knowledge but defended the district taking on the government.

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 toilet 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 non-existent and the law discriminatory.

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