Ky. Gov. Matt Bevin issues response to Obama administration bathroom mandate
"It is difficult to imagine a more absurd federal overreach into a local issue," Bevin wrote.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB/AP) -- Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has issued a response to a mandate from President Obama's administration that public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity.
The directive was issued by the administration in response to a court battle between the federal government and North Carolina. The guidance from leaders at the Justice and Education departments says public schools are obligated to treat transgender students in a way that matches their gender identity, even if their education records or identity documents indicate a different sex.
This afternoon, Gov. Bevin issued a brief written statement on the directive:
"It is difficult to imagine a more absurd federal overreach into a local issue. Under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the federal government has no authority to interfere in local school districts' bathroom policies. The President is not promoting unity. In fact, he is doing quite the opposite. He is intentionally dividing America by threatening to sue or withhold funding from our cash-strapped public schools if they do not agree with his personal opinion on policies that remain squarely in their jurisdiction. They should not feel compelled to bow to such intimidation. My administration is researching the options available for ensuring that this local issue is decided by Kentuckians, not by bureaucrats in Washington."
For its part, the Obama administration is standing behind its directive, according to an Associated Press story by Eric Tucker.
"There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement accompanying the directive, which is being sent to school districts on Friday.
In issuing the guidance, the Obama administration is wading anew into a socially divisive debate it has bluntly cast in terms of civil rights. The Justice Department on Monday sued North Carolina over a bathroom access law that it said violates the rights of transgender people, a measure that Lynch likened to policies of racial segregation and efforts to deny gay couples the right to marry.
The guidance does not impose any new legal requirements. But officials say it's meant to clarify expectations of school districts that receive funding from the federal government. Educators have been seeking guidance on how to comply with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding, Education Secretary John B. King said in a statement.
"We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence," King said.
In Texas, Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick said on Friday that the state was ready to forfeit federal education money, currently about $10 billion, rather than comply with the guidance.
"We will not be blackmailed by the president's 30 pieces of silver," he said. "The people of Texas and the Legislature will find a way to find as much of that money as we can if we are forced to."
Under the guidance, schools are told that they must treat transgender students according to their chosen gender identity as soon as a parent or guardian notifies the district that that identity "differs from previous representations or records." There is no obligation for a student to present a specific medical diagnosis or identification documents that reflect his or her gender identity, and equal access must be given to transgender students even in instances when it makes others uncomfortable, according to the directive.
"As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others' discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students," the guidance says.
The administration is also releasing a separate 25-page document of questions and answers about best practices , including ways schools can make transgender students comfortable in the classroom and protect the privacy rights of all students in restrooms or locker rooms.
The move was cheered by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay, lesbian and transgender civil rights organization, which called the guidelines "groundbreaking."
"This is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement.
The guidance comes days after the Justice Department and North Carolina filed dueling lawsuits over a new state law that says transgender people must use public bathrooms, showers and changing rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate. The administration has said the law violates the Civil Rights Act.
Several other politicians have jumped into the conversation as well. House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover released the following statement:
"Today, President Obama directed every public school to provide transgender access to bathrooms, or face the loss of federal funds. Kentucky will not be held hostage to President Obama, particularly when it comes to the safety of children in our schools.”
“President Obama has already waged war on our coalfields, and the result has been the devastating loss of more than 19,000 Kentucky jobs. Today, the Obama Administration took its war from the Kentucky coalfield to the Kentucky classroom. I will not stand for this type of gross federal overreach that goes against the values of most Kentuckians.”
“Kentucky’s schools should be regulated on a local level, and not have the policies of Washington liberals forced upon them. If this directive stands, I will consider every measure to ensure it is challenged in Kentucky.”
Senate president Robert Stivers agrees with with Hoover and Bevin:
“With complete disregard for the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, President Barack Obama on Friday directed every school in the nation to provide access to transgender bathrooms, threatening to take federal funding away from any school that does not comply.”
“This is yet another example of indefensible overreach by President Obama, illustrating just how out of touch his administration has been with the values of Kentucky families. I firmly believe that this should be a local issue and I am prepared to fight for the safety of our students in Kentucky.”
“I would also like to encourage our Democratic colleagues in the Senate and the House to join us in this important fight against federal overreach.”
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