Ohio sues over transgender bathroom rule

Posted at 7:36 AM, Jul 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-09 07:36:38-04

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Ohio and nine other states Friday in suing the federal government over rules requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms conforming to their gender identity.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Nebraska; in addition to Ohio, the lawsuit included Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The filing comes after 11 states, including Kentucky, sued in May over the same Obama administration directive. North Carolina officials also sued the federal government in May over the same issue. Vast sums of federal funding are at stake: Money could be withheld from public schools that refuse to comply with the federal directive.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said the U.S. Education Department and Justice Department have circumvented established law and the process for changing existing laws.

"It also supersedes local school districts' authority to address student issues on an individualized, professional and private basis," Peterson said in a written statement.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette accused the Obama administration of "another ... federal overreach" that bypasses parents, schools and Congress.

"This lawsuit is about children and our schools," he said.

The battle began to take shape when officials in Charlotte passed a sweeping anti-discrimination ordinance that included a provision allowing transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to their gender identity. North Carolina lawmakers passed a law nullifying that ordinance and banning others like it.

Soon after, the Justice Department said the law violated the federal Civil Rights Act and said it couldn't be enforced. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said North Carolina's law requiring transgender people to use public restrooms and showers corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate amounts to "state-sponsored discrimination" and is aimed at "a problem that doesn't exist."

Jay Kaplan, a lawyer who specializes in LGBT issues at the American Civil Liberties Union in Detroit, said the lawsuit is a waste of tax dollars "as well as an assault on the dignity of transgender youth."

Danielle Conrad, director of the ACLU in Nebraska, said students in her state have been using gender-appropriate bathrooms for decades without a problem.

The Nebraska lawsuit hinges on the terms "sex" and "gender identity," saying federal law uses only the term "sex."

"Neither the text nor the legislative history of Title IX supports an interpretation of the term 'sex' as meaning anything other than one's sex as determined by anatomy and genetics," the lawsuit says.