Paxton Sues Federal Government Over Bathrooms for Transgendered

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is taking his potty problem to the feds. Wednesday afternoon, Paxton announced that he, along with a cadre of other states and school districts, was suing the United States, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of North Texas' Harrold ISD. The lawsuit stems from Paxton being upset about a federal directive that says transgender students at any school receiving federal money should be allowed to use a restroom consistent with their gender identity. Texas schools receive about $5.8 billion a year in federal funding, all of which will be at risk should the state flout federal policy.

“Our local schools are now in the crosshairs of the Obama administration, which maintains it will punish those schools who do not comply with its orders. These schools are facing the potential loss of school funding for simply following common sense policies that protect their students,” Paxton said. “This represents just the latest example of the current administration’s attempts to accomplish by executive fiat what they couldn’t accomplish through the democratic process in Congress. By forcing through his policies by executive action, President Obama excluded the voice of the people. We stand today to ensure those voices are heard.”  

Harrold ISD has about 100 kindergarten-12th grade students. It passed a policy declaring that each of those students would be required to use the bathroom consistent with the sex listed on his or her birth certificate on Monday. Superintendent David Thweatt said Wednesday that, although he was contacted by Paxton first about participating in the suit, he was just about to get in touch with the attorney general's office anyway.

Thweatt said his district does not have any transgender students.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott was proud that his state is serving as the last line of defense against transgender kids and their excretory functions.

“The Obama administration has routinely trampled on the United States Constitution, and this latest executive action is yet another example of the administration’s disregard for the rule of law. The president continues to violate the Constitution by trying to rewrite laws as if he were a king," Abbott said in a written statement. "The states serve as the last line of defense against an unlawfully expansive federal government, and I applaud Attorney General Paxton for fighting against the president’s attempt to rule by executive fiat.”

Paxton's legal argument centers on his belief that the federal directive against which he is bringing the lawsuit misreads Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in any education program receiving federal money. Those protections, and the guaranteed use of school facilities that comes with them, the attorney general argues, only extend to an individual's sex, rather than their gender identity. How transgender individual are accommodated in education setting should be left to the states, he argued.

"The cost of defending the Constitution is always worth it," he said.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young