In May, President Obama gave public schools in America an ultimatum: allow transgender students to use whichever bathroom corresponds with their gender identity or risk losing federal aid. Now, thirteen states are suing the Obama administration on the grounds that this directive is unconstitutional.
Although the Justice Department claims that the push for transgender rights is no more than a strong recommendation (rather than a law), the complaint filed by the states accuses the department of turning public institutions "into laboratories for a massive social experiment."
When Obama first made this transgender bathroom speech in May, he suggested that any institution disallowing a student from using their gender (rather than sex) appropriate bathroom would be in violation of Title IX, which states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
The cohort of thirteen states includes Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, Mississippi and Kentucky.
This lawsuit comes just months after Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed into law the infamous Bathroom Bill, also known as House Bill 2 or HB2, which mandates North Carolina residents to use the bathroom corresponding with the gender on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.
"We have a bill that makes it clear that we are not going to put our citizens in further danger," said North Carolina Senate President Phil Berger on the day that HB2 was passed on March 23. Berger, like many social conservatives in support of the bill, suggested that it is "dangerous" to allow anyone who is biologically male into a girls' bathroom.
However, as many accounts have shown, transgender students are usually the ones in danger. In fact, a 2013 study by Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that 75 percent of transgender youth feel unsafe at school because of bullying. Another study, published in 2016 by the Journal of Homosexuality, reported that "denial of access to either space had a significant relationship to suicidality, even after controlling for interpersonal victimization."
But no matter what the data says, supporters of this recent lawsuit against the Obama administration only see the threat of the "liberal social agenda." Leslie Rutledge, attorney general of Arkansas, exemplified this point of view when she called Obama's call for equal rights "a radical social policy that raises serious safety concerns for school-age children."