3 GOP AGs Fire Back At Obama Over Trans Bathroom Policy

Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, addresses the opening session of the 82nd Texas Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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The attorneys general of Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia on Tuesday sent a letter to Obama administration officials, asking whether the new federal government guidance on how to accommodate transgender students will threaten federal funding to states that ignore the guidelines.

“The so-called ‘significant guidance’ issued by the Obama Administrations raises more questions than it answers, just as it creates concerns among anyone who believes sex is a biological fact and not a personal preference,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said in a statement announcing the letter.

“As billions of dollars appear to be at stake based upon schools’ compliance with this guidance, the Obama Administration must be extremely clear about what is and isn’t allowed, and explain how their actions do not add requirements to the law, as their letter claims,” he added.

Paxton, along with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) have been among the most outspoken Republican state officials to decry the letter sent by the Obama administration last week. They declared that President Obama had committed executive overreach and have hinted at legal action.

The Justice and Education departments last week sent a letter to schools directing them to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. The letter did not include an explicit threat to yank federal funding from schools that don’t follow the guidelines, but said that schools that receive federal funding cannot discriminate on the basis of gender identity.

The Obama administration has said that the Title IX protections on the basis of sex cover discrimination based on gender identity, but courts have yet to definitively weigh in on that interpretation.

The letter from the three state attorneys general asked the Justice and Education departments whether refusing to follow the new guidance could threaten federal education funding.

“In your view, must an entity receiving federal funding follow this ’significant guidance’ in order to be in compliance with Title IX and/or entitled to continued receipt of federal funding?” they ask in the letter. “Do circumstances exist in which you would consider a school still in compliance with Title IX despite non-compliance with these guidelines? If so, please describe those circumstances and whether you would take steps to recoup or end federal funding.”

The letter also challenges the Obama administration’s interpretation of sex discrimination banned under Title IX.

“If your letter imposes on its recipients the obligation to ‘treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations,’ then we are at a loss as to how your letter does not in fact ‘add requirements to applicable law,'” the attorneys general wrote.

They asked in the letter which “statute, regulation or binding court decision” prohibits schools from discriminating against students on the basis of gender identity.

The attorneys general asked the administration to respond to the inquiry by May 24.

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