More states sue Obama administration over
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[July 09, 2016]
By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) - Ten states including Nebraska,
Michigan and Ohio sued the Obama administration on Friday, saying the
federal government does not have the power to tell states that
transgender people must be allowed to use public bathrooms that conform
with their gender identity.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska,
takes issue with a May 13 letter sent by the U.S. Department of Justice
and U.S. Department of Education to states warning them that they could
lose federal funding if they required transgender people to use
bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex. The lawsuit says the
Obama administration's move was an attempt to rewrite federal civil
rights laws that do not apply to transgender people.
It was filed by the attorneys general of the 10 states, which also
include Arkansas, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South
Dakota and Wyoming.
“When a federal agency takes such unilateral action in an attempt to
change the meaning of established law, it leaves state and local
authorities with no other option than to pursue legal clarity in federal
court,” Nebraska's attorney general, Doug Peterson, a Republican, said
in a statement.
The Justice Department did not immediately have a comment.
The lawsuit is the latest salvo in a nationwide debate over rights for
Officials from Texas, Wisconsin and nine other states on May 25 filed a
nearly identical lawsuit in federal court in Texas, later joined by
Kentucky and Mississippi.
States challenging Obama administration initiatives have frequently
filed separate lawsuits making similar claims so the cases ultimately
end up in multiple federal appeals courts, increasing the states'
chances of victory.
The Obama administration’s letter said transgender people are protected
by prohibitions on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, which applies to employment, and Title IX of the Education
Amendments of 1972, which applies to federally funded schools. States
collectively receive billions of dollars in federal education funding
each year that can be taken away as a penalty for violating Title IX.
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A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting
transgender bathroom access adorns the bathroom stalls at the 21C
Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan
The states that are party to the lawsuit filed in May on Wednesday
asked the judge handling that case to temporarily block the
administration from enforcing its interpretation of federal law
pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
The Justice Department in May sued North Carolina over a state law
that requires people to use public bathrooms that correspond to the
sex on their birth certificates.
That law has spurred protests by companies, sports leagues and
prominent musicians who have refused to play concerts in the state.
The case is Nebraska v. United States of America, U.S. District
Court for the District of Nebraska, No. 4:16-cv-03117.
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