Today, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that Texas and other states and officials have filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration's recently released guidance to schools across the country clarifying that federal law already prohibits discrimination against students based on gender identity.
Paul D. Castillo, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's South Central Regional Office in Dallas, issued the following statement:
"By attacking laws that protect transgender people in schools and at work these state officials are determined to perpetuate fear, enshrine discrimination and endanger transgender peopleand students in particular. The suit filed today by Texas Attorney General Paxton completely and willfully misunderstands who transgender people are and the challenges they face in life. We are already in discussions with our partners here in Texas and elsewhere on next steps, and will move quickly to fight this attempt to turn back the clock. It is as true today as it has always been in the fight for civil rights: the discomfort of some can never be used to justify the discriminatory treatment of others.
"Across the country, including here in Texas, school districts have implemented without incident fair and inclusive policies that respect the rights and dignity of transgender students. In fact, accompanying the federal guidance issued two weeks ago was abundant documentation from school districts nationwide demonstrating successful implementation of these policies and the improved outcomes such respectful policies produce for all.
"Singling out transgender students for separate and unequal treatment is demeaning and harmful, and compelling them to use bathrooms that don't correspond with their gender identity subjects them to potential abuse and harassment. All students deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in school, free of harassment, discriminatory treatment and the threat of violence."
From the ACLU
Eleven states have announced legal action against the Obama administration following the release of guidance on how schools treat transgender students.
James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project had the following reaction:
"This lawsuit is an attack from eleven states on transgender Americans, plain and simple. While the Obama administration is being sued, the real targets here are vulnerable young people and adults who simply seek to live their lives free from discrimination when they go to school, work or the restroom."
"There have been no disruptions, increases in public safety incidents, nor invasions of privacy related to protections for transgender people. The federal agencies named in this lawsuit have not changed existing obligations under the law. Our civil rights laws, including Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, have long prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, and federal courts and agencies have long recognized that this includes protections for transgender people."
"The Supreme Court has made clear that one cannot sue an agency just because they disagree with the agency's guidance. If these attorneys general disagree with the agency's interpretation of what the federal ban on sex discrimination means, they can make that argument to the court when it arises in a real case. This lawsuit is a political stunt."
This press release can be found here: www.aclu.org/news/aclu-comment-lawsuit-filed-11-states-challenging-obama-administration-transgender-guidance .
From the Human Rights Campaign
The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC released the following statement on the reckless and shameful lawsuit filed today by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and government actors from 10 other states, which aims to block federal nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.
In the suit, Paxton — who has been indicted — has led other states seeking to undo crucial and historic non-discrimination advancements the federal government has implemented for transgender people in recent years. Specifically, the lawsuit attacks guidance from the U.S. Department of Education which explains that schools are obligated under federal law to protect transgender students from discrimination challenges guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ( OSHA ) with regards to transgender employees, and seeks to undermine the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's determination that transgender employees are covered by federal employment nondiscrimination law.
"The lawsuit filed today is dangerous political grandstanding that has put a target on the backs of transgender Americans in schools and workplaces across the country," said Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director of the Human Rights Campaign. "The guidance recently issued by the United States Departments of Education and Justice is a clarification of the existing state of the law, and that clarification was requested by educators who were already hard at work ensuring that their students, including transgender students, were able to get an education where they are safe and enabled to learn. This lawsuit not only misrepresents the guidance and misrepresents the law, it does significant harm to transgender people by encouraging discriminatory behavior. We look forward to seeing this case receive the disposition it deserves."
Today, HRC released a letter signed by national organizations representing almost five million educators, pediatricians, counselors, and other child welfare providers urging lawmakers and public officials, like Paxton, to stop their political attacks on transgender youth. These organizations include the American Federation of Teachers; the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American Counseling Association; the National Association of School Psychologists; and the National Education Association.
Paxton previously issued an opinion encouraging clerks to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court's historic marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v Hodges. Paxton's opinion is similar to one issued by Alabama Chief Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, who was recently suspended from the bench after directing probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Texas State Bar rules requires all attorneys, including the Attorney General, to take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
Also today, HRC Welcoming Schools released a key resource for school officials to effectively and respectfully follow recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on the rights of transgender students. The guide answers questions school officials may be asked by parents, guardians and other community members.