11-state coalition, including W.Va., sues over bathroom edict

By Chris Dickerson | May 25, 2016

CHARLESTON — Behind Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia is one of 11 states that filed suit against the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice challenging a recent directive on transgender students as federal overreach.

The lawsuit, filed May 25 in the Northern District of Texas, alleges the federal directive unlawfully puts at risk substantial funding for local school districts that refuse to admit students to the bathrooms, locker rooms, dormitories and athletic teams of their choice.

“This unlawful directive rewrites federal law and forces a seismic shift in local schools,” Morrisey said in a statement. “School policies should be determined by individual states, educators and parents — not dictated by a presidential decree.”

The lawsuit contends President Obama’s administration seeks to unilaterally expand the decades-old understanding of the word “sex” from that based on biology to include a person’s self-determined gender identity. Such an approach ignores lawful procedure, sidesteps congressional authorization and unconstitutionally coerces states.

The plaintiffs also allege violations of the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments among other arguments.

Earlier in May, Morrisey advised state and county officials that the federal directive has no force of law. He also pledged his office would fight any use of the directive to eliminate millions in federal funding to local schools.

On a related note, Morrisey recently led nine states in asking the full, 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., to review and reconsider a panel’s 2-1 decision, involving a transgender student in Gloucester County, Va.

The Gloucester County case, which if left intact would govern West Virginia and four other states, remains subject to challenge and did not address the legality of anything as wide-ranging or sweeping as the Justice and Education Departments' directive.

Morrisey signed onto the May 25 lawsuit with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and officials from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. They are joined by two local school districts in Arizona and Texas.

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