On Wednesday, in response to the Obama administration's directive that guides public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, 11 states sued the U.S. government. The directive, issued on May 13, came as several states across the country considered making it illegal for people to use public bathrooms and other gendered facilities that do not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. Eleven states, with Texas acting as ringleader, are now trying to overturn Obama's directive with their lawsuit.
Reuters reported that Texas, lead plaintiff in the suit, was joined by the Arizona Department of Education, the governor of Maine, and the states of Utah, Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Alabama. According to Reuters, the lawsuit (which can be read in full here) said:
Defendants have 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.
Further, according to The Washington Post, the lawsuit stated that Obama's directive would cause "seismic changes in the operations of the nation's school districts." The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas filed the suit.
Just after the release of the directive, CNN noted that it doesn't carry legal power, meaning it was not a piece of legislation demanding that schools follow the directive by allowing transgender students to use facilities that align with their gender identity. However, Republicans decried the directive, which contained an implicit suggestion that states could lose federal money if they failed to cooperate with it.
The suit against the federal government is one of several recent legal battles around transgender rights. After North Carolina passed House Bill 2 in March, mandating that people use bathrooms that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that House Bill 2 violated anti-discrimination laws. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory responded by filing a countersuit against the Justice Department accusing it of overreach.
As transgender issues become more visible, the backlash against transgender rights becomes louder. This 11-state suit is the biggest challenge the federal government has faced regarding transgender facility access, and the outcome could either spur the expansion of transgender rights on the federal level or hamper that effort going forward.