AG's office seeks injunction to halt enforcement of Obama's transgender school policy

By Chris Dickerson | Jul 7, 2016

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is seeking a nationwide injunction to halt enforcement of the federal government’s directive on transgender students, while assuring local school systems that his office will defend them in court.

Both represent the latest developments in Morrisey's fight against the federal directive that 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.

The preliminary injunction, sought by West Virginia and 12 other states, would preserve federal funding for local schools and prohibit enforcement of the directive pending the court’s ultimate ruling.

Meanwhile, Morrisey also sent a letter to state and county officials vowing the state would intervene and his office would connect local school systems with willing and qualified pro bono counsel, should the federal government threaten to defund any specific county based upon the directive.

“I take very seriously this attack on our schools’ independence and funding,” Morrisey wrote in his letter to state and county officials. “It is unconscionable for the Federal Government to hold our students hostage in this way to the whims of federal bureaucrats … I cannot — and will not — ignore this threat to our students.”

The injunction application supports a lawsuit brought by West Virginia, Texas and 11 other states. The states contend an injunction is necessary as their arguments will prevail and inaction now would cause irreparable harm by forcing state officials to choose between violating federal rules and state law.

Separately, Morrisey's letter provides greater detail as to how his office will shield county school systems from President Obama’s threat to revoke federal funding. The explanation came at the request of Marion County Superintendent Gary L. Price.

In writing to Price and other officials, Morrisey said he hopes the injunction and lawsuit will provide legal certainty for the upcoming school year and spare West Virginia schools the trouble and expense of individual litigation.

That lawsuit, filed May 25 in the Northern District of Texas, contends the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice seek 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.

The states argue such an approach ignores lawful procedure, sidesteps congressional authorization and unconstitutionally coerces states. The plaintiffs also point to violations of the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments among other arguments.

West Virginia brought the lawsuit with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and officials from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. They are joined by two local school districts in Arizona and Texas.

The West Virginia Republican Party hailed Morrisey's efforts.

"There is no stronger fighter for West Virginia values and stopping Washington, DC than our Republican Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey," state GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas said. "Obama and his liberal friends are doing their worst to endanger our kids in their safe spaces at schools and athletic events, with this bizarre transgendered bathroom push.

"Obama's initiative endangers children. We, as states and counties and school districts have the right to decide how we will conduct our business, and will not be told by Washington, DC what our community values must be."

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