Texas

Paxton ramps up fight against transgender policy

Harrold ISD Superintendent David Thweatt, left, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speak during a news conference in Austin in May when Paxton announced he was sueing to challenge President Obama's transgender bathroom order.
Harrold ISD Superintendent David Thweatt, left, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speak during a news conference in Austin in May when Paxton announced he was sueing to challenge President Obama's transgender bathroom order. Austin American-Statesman

Plunging further into the politics of public school bathrooms, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday expanded his federal lawsuit against an Obama Administration directive instructing schools not to discriminate against transgender students, saying he wants a nationwide injunction stopping the policy and wants it quickly.

Because a federal judge’s decision to halt President Obama’s executive action on immigration was applied nationwide, Paxton suggested that a different federal judge in Wichita Falls has the authority to issue a similar order regarding the transgender policy.

The updated request for preliminary injunction against the new rules is the latest in Texas’ fight against the federal government over the transgender-inclusive policy. Zeroing in on a requirement to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, Texas, joined by 10 other states, filed a federal lawsuit in March to stop Obama’s directive.

Guidelines issued by the Fort Worth School District in April prompted Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to call for Superintendent Kent Scribner’s resignation. He has since called on all superintendents in Texas to ignore the Obama directive.

At Patrick’s request, Paxton issued an opinion last week saying that Scribner had exceeded his authority in issuing the guidelines. The guidelines are in line with the Obama administration directive.

In the latest filing in his federal suit, Paxton’s office wrote that a nationwide injunction is necessary because the new rules apply to all public school districts and not just those suing the federal government. The other states in the lawsuit are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Obama administration guidelines stated that transgender students have the right to use their preferred bathrooms in public schools because of Title IX, a federal statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender at institutions of education that receive federal funding. It does not have the force of law, though school districts could risk losing billions in federal money if they do not comply.

Additionally, those states requested that the judge expedite a ruling on the new rules ahead of the 2016-2017 school year “to provide clarity to education authorities.”

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

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