The Obama administration’s use of executive fiat to prohibit schools from maintaining sex-separated facilities encountered its first national legal challenge today when nine states (Alabama, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and Georgia) and officials from two other states (Maine and Arizona) sued the federal government and Obama administration officials.
At issue is the administration’s recent directive that has been decried by parents and students across the country, mandating that schools open their locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms regardless of biological reality. In the lawsuit, the states labeled the president’s bathroom directive “radical,” arguing that the administration “conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for social experiments.” They also claim that the president’s bathroom directive, which was issued using executive authority and without a congressional vote, “flouted the democratic process.”
Administration officials concluded in the bathroom directive that Title IX of the Civil Rights Act requires schools to allow students to use whichever showers, locker rooms, housing, changing facilities, and restrooms are consistent with their internal gender identity, regardless of their biological sex. In a letter to school districts, the Departments of Justice and Education threatened to withhold federal education funding from school districts that refused to comply with the Administration’s new rules.
The administration’s interpretation contradicts the original intent and traditional interpretation of Title IX, which allows schools to protect the privacy of students by maintaining separate “facilities for the different sexes.” Even liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then a professor at Columbia Law School, wrote in a 1975 Washington Post editorial that because of privacy concerns, equal access and a prohibition on sex discrimination do not exclude separate facilities for changing and using the bathroom.
Officials from the eleven states that filed this lawsuit should be commended for listening to the voice of the people and pushing back against this blatant executive overreach.
It should be no surprise that Washington state, which has its own ongoing fight over bathroom access and privacy concerns, did not join the other eleven states and officials that filed the lawsuit today. The unelected Washington State Human Rights Commission issued a rule last December that prohibits businesses and other places of public accommodation from protecting the privacy of their patrons by ensuring that facility use is determined by biological sex.
Initiative No. 1515, which was filed in response to the Human Rights Commission’s bathroom rule, would repeal the rule and allow businesses, not unelected state bureaucrats, to decide their own bathroom policies.