Karen Kidd Aug. 17, 2016, 10:22am


AUSTIN (SE Texas Record) – The school year in many state districts begins next week but the Texas Attorney General's office still awaits a federal judge's decision about their request to block the Obama administration's bathroom guidelines for transgender students.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked for an expedited ruling but Judge Reed O’Connor of U.S. District Court for the state's Northern Jurisdiction took no action during an almost two-hour hearing Friday and hasn't since, according to published reports.

Texas is leading a 13-state legal maneuver to block the guidelines nationwide, not just in Texas, arguing that enforcing the guidelines upon every school district in the nation is unconstitutional.

Paxton, who has had his own legal problems with federal law enforcement, said in a statement issued after Friday's hearing that he is confident Judge O'Connor would rule in favor of the 13-state coalition.

“We are confident that the court will rule against the Obama Administration’s latest illegal federal overreach," Paxton was quoted in his statement. "This President is attempting to rewrite the laws that were enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is using the threat of losing federal funding to get schools to conform; that cannot be allowed to continue."

Paxton also suggested the Obama guidelines are illegal. "The Obama Administration’s directive unlawfully invades areas that are better left to local schools and parents to balance the needs of students, including their safety, privacy and dignity,” Paxton said in his statement.

Friday's hearing was the first in the case filed this past spring in which Texas and the other 13 states asked the court for a preliminary injunction preventing federal authorities from imposing the guidelines about accommodating transgender students in public school bathrooms.

The spat over which restroom transgender people can use is not the only instance of Texas joining with other states. Last month, Texas joined with 14 other states to send a letter to Congress asking that body to reign in federal agencies that create and enforce regulations that are imposed upon the states.

This particular lawsuit stems from the guidelines about transgender students issued by the Obama administration in early May. Those guidelines, including those listed under Title IX, say discrimination against transgender individuals violates federal nondiscrimination statutes.

Those protections extend to gender identity and acknowledge the right of transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice and that require school officials to treat a student’s gender identity as the student physical gender.

By all accounts, the guidelines do not enjoy the force of law but school districts that don't comply will risk losing federal funds.

The preliminary injunction sought by Texas and the other 12 states would preserve that federal funding for all local schools but would prohibit enforcement of the guidelines, at least until the case's final outcome. The 13-state coalition claims the preliminary injunction is necessary until their own arguments prevail because inaction would bring irreparable harm. The guidelines, the 13-state coalition argues, would force state officials to choose between violating federal rules and state law.

Other states that joined the lawsuit are West Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. The lawsuit also was joined by two local school districts in Arizona and Texas.

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