Utah joins 10 other states suing Obama over directive on transgender bathrooms

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Utah 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, which was announced Wednesday includes Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Texas and Georgia. The suit, 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.

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. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said “there is no room in our schools for discrimination.”

Utah responds

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes released a statement upon joining the lawsuit.

Every child is an individual. The recent “Dear Colleague” letter from the US Department of Justice and Department of Education attempts to apply a single solution to all individuals without regard for the input of parents, schools, and community leaders. The federal government’s ‘one size fits all’ mandate, disconnected from the needs of Utah schools, disrespects individuals and ignores the law.

As such, Utah has joined an action with states across the country to clarify issues raised by the DOJ and DOE and to prevent the federal government from infringing on the role of states, local school districts or Congress. Multiple states in good faith sought clarification from the DOJ and DOE, but the silence from the federal government has resulted in an environment of confusion for educators and administrators. The lawsuit will identify whether states and local school boards remain free to find solutions on a case-by-case basis, suited to the needs of individual families.

This case is not really about bathrooms, but about executive branch overreach. If the “Dear Colleague” letter was intended to mandate a new interpretation of the law, the lawsuit challenges that adaptation as legally improper. When a presidential administration wishes to change the law, it must do so appropriately. This Administration could have worked with Congress. It could have challenged the constitutionality of a state or local board policy. Or it could have taken proper steps under the Administrative Procedures Act to provide notice and solicit comment from the public, including states, school boards and families. Process has a purpose.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert made his position clear Friday in a statement, calling the executive order “one of the most egregious examples of federal overreach I have ever witnessed.”

“Unfortunately, this is exactly what I have come to expect from the Obama administration,” Herbert said in his statement. “If we have to fight this order, we will not hesitate to do so.”

Utah Democratic Party Executive Director Lauren Littlefield issued the following statement in response to the state of Utah’s decision to sue the Obama administration regarding bathroom access for transgender students in public schools.

This lawsuit is another waste of taxpayer dollars, and a giant waste of time. While Utahns are literally dying because our GOP leaders have refused to pass common-sense Medicaid expansion, those same leaders have seen fit to use taxpayer money to pander to the far right wing of their party. It is immoral and reprehensible to discriminate against our LGBT students in this way, and even worse, to do it at taxpayer expense. Rather than creating problems where there aren’t any, Utah GOP leaders should re-evaluate their priorities and focus on the issues that will truly make a difference for Utah families.

Other states

Texas’ lieutenant governor has previously said the state is willing to forfeit $10 billion in federal education dollars rather than comply with the directive, which represents an escalation in the fast-moving dispute over what is becoming the civil rights issue of the day.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, was asked if he knew of any instances in which a child’s safety had been threatened because of transgender bathroom rights.  “There’s not a lot of research,” Paxton said. He said his office has heard from concerned parents, but didn’t say how many, and said he did not meet with any parents of transgender students before filing the lawsuit.

The question of whether federal civil rights law protects transgender people has not been answered by the courts and may ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. But schools that refuse to comply could be hit with civil rights lawsuits from the government and could face a cutoff of federal aid to education.

The directive came after the Justice Department and North Carolina sued each other over 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.

The White House had no comment on the multi-state lawsuit.

Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews | @NewsWayman

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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  • ladybugavenger May 25, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Yes! Stop the madness! Penises do not belong with vaginas in the restroom and showers

  • Christine May 25, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Awesome!! Another reason for me to be ashamed of living here!

    • 42214 May 25, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      I bet San Francisco would welcome you.

    • .... May 26, 2016 at 9:11 am

      By all means leave. ! Bye

  • ladybugavenger May 25, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    If you’re a guy or girl that dresses and looks like the opposite sex. I’m not going to know if you have a penis or not, go into whatever bathroom you want. This directive is for kids in school bathrooms and locker rooms, they aren’t going through a sex change yet. Keep your boys penis out of the girls bathroom

  • ladybugavenger May 25, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    And for all my haters: my judgment is not the judgment you should be worried about.

  • Accountable May 25, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    GO UTAH!! I’m proud of our State for standing up to this gross federal government overreach!

  • Henry May 25, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Author Ric Wayman – you should’ve clarified the meaning of “gender identity”. The way you used it, it’s a euphemism for one’s gender choice. The term identity is better defined as what one actually is; in this case, one’s actual gender.

    • ladybugavenger May 25, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      Ones actual gender is the gender they were born. That’s the problem! people are confused by what gender they are and have an identity crisis. Look down people that’s what gender you are stop trying to change it. God did not get it wrong.

  • Bob May 25, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    aww, censored. oh well, add the transgenders to the opressed victimhood class and let them into whatever toilet they want…

  • Bob May 25, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    i aspire to one day achive an oppressed victimhood status

  • .... May 26, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Utah is going to sue for the right to have apostle gender restrooms

  • Wolverine May 26, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Waste of time and $$. It’s embarrassing to live in a state that wants to discriminate. I feel like too many “conservatives” want to turn back the clock to the hate filled, shameful discrimination era of our country’s past. I have never thought of myself as being a liberal, but I am certainly not opposed to someone using a restroom in a public setting. Skirt or pants, who the hell cares. I never consider basic human rights as overreach. People in this state and country are WAY to uptight about the human body as it is. Just like you were taught not to stare at people that look differently than you do, mind your own business. Live and let live I say.

    • Ron May 26, 2016 at 9:12 am

      Wolverine, I hope you never experience a son/daughter being molested by a “transgendered” man or woman simply because they decided to “dress, act, feel or appear, etc.” as a transgender, in a public bathroom. I don’t think you would feel the same if it occurred to a loved one, be it your children and/or grandchildren. Or, consider your wife/girlfriend being assaulted by a “transgendered” woman. (Meaning a man “feeling” like a woman. Ever think about that?….anyone?

      • Mike May 26, 2016 at 11:40 am

        Ron, wouldn’t it make more sense to hope that Wolverine (and everyone’s) son/daughter is never molested by anyone? (Sadly, most children are molested by family or someone their family knows.) Remember the little girl murdered in the Primm casino bathroom? Not a gay man, not a transgender person. Just a rat fink, dirty murderer.

        • 42214 May 27, 2016 at 5:12 pm

          That would be one Jeremy Stroughmeyer if I recall. Still in prison I hope.

  • Ron May 26, 2016 at 9:03 am

    If people are having trouble determining what gender they are, just look down into your shorts. The answer is there….can’t get any more simple than that.

  • htown May 26, 2016 at 10:39 am

    At least Michelle Obama can use the Men’s Room now

    • .... May 26, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      Oh yeah Real Life is looking forward to that !

      • Real Life May 27, 2016 at 6:29 am

        Look out, the king of comedy is back. Weak Dumpster, just weak.

        • .... May 27, 2016 at 9:29 am

          Awwww you’re so easy. is that all you got ? weak REALNOLIFE just plain weak

  • Rainbow Dash May 26, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    I am always amazed that the Mormons who run this state can’t afford to pay teachers and police officers a decent wage but always seem to find a way to pay for expensive and frivolous lawsuits.

  • .... May 27, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Well the state of Utah has programs to help the socially challenged losers that need to get a Real Life !

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