11 States Sue U.S. Government Over Transgender Policies
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Officials from 11 states are now suing the Obama administration over its directive to allow students to use school bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. This suit was filed in Texas yesterday. Social conservatives in Texas say the state is protecting itself from federal overreach. Ashley Lopez from member station KUT in Austin reports.
ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he's not aware of any instances where a transgender child's choice of bathroom has become a problem in the state. In fact, he told reporters this lawsuit isn't entirely about that. He says he's suing the Obama administration because of the way this was all done.
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KEN PAXTON: I'm telling you they didn't follow the proper procedures and that they - this isn't an interpretation of law. This is a new rewrite of law.
LOPEZ: A small school district in North Texas recently adopted a rule that students must use bathrooms that correspond to the gender that they were assigned at birth. And Paxton says he wants to make sure the federal government can't take away funding from them as a result. But Meghan Stabler, who lives in the Austin area and is transgender herself, says this is clearly about more than federal overreach.
MEGHAN STABLER: I think it's bigger than that. I don't think that Attorney General Paxton can claim this is not about transgender people or transgender rights, especially when you start to read the lawsuit itself.
LOPEZ: Stabler says the Obama administration was protecting the rights of young transgender students who are already in a vulnerable position. She says Paxton and others are using this issue, which started garnering national attention in North Carolina, for their own political gain.
STABLER: And unfortunately, the impact of his political limelight is probably through the complete and utter destruction of transgender kids, who are just trying to do nothing but go to a school to learn and to have a safe school environment.
LOPEZ: But Jonathan Saenz with a group called Texas Values says this is about student safety. He says the federal government is getting in the way of the state's ability to protect students. Saenz says he's grateful Paxton filed the lawsuit.
JONATHAN SAENZ: His team are working so hard and taking timely steps to stop the federal government's radical directive that was executed without congressional approval and put students, especially girls, in harm's way.
LOPEZ: Saenz also points out that if this were done through Congress, the conversation here would be different. The repercussions for the states involved in the lawsuit could go beyond school bathrooms. Jessica Shortall works for Texas Competes. The group is a coalition of almost 1,000 companies, some major national corporations, who say the state should protect LGBT rights as a business interest. Shortall says her group doesn't have comments on this particular lawsuit. But...
JESSICA SHORTALL: Anything in any state, including in the state of Texas, that makes a state look unwelcoming and hostile to LGBT people has been proven by the data and by case study after case study around the country as bad for business.
LOPEZ: LGBT activists want Paxton and other state leaders to meet with transgender people to discuss this dispute. For NPR News, I'm Ashley Lopez in Austin.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION ON JUNE 2, 2016: In the audio of this story, we incorrectly say a North Texas school district requires students to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender they were assigned at birth. In fact, the district's rule does not refer to students' genders; it states that students must use bathrooms that correspond to the biological sex designated on their birth certificates.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.