The state of Georgia joined 10 other states on Wednesday in suing the Obama Administration over its attempt to protect transgender children from discrimination. Mississippi joined the lawsuit as an eleventh plaintiff on Thursday.
Many of the states argue that the federal directive—which is not legally binding, but merely serves as guidance—is a mark of federal overreach. In reality, these guidelines are not new or groundbreaking. In fact, there is legal precedent for them. The Department of Education first announced in 2014 that Title IX protections covered transgender students. And last month, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a Virginia school board that attempted to ban a transgender teenager from using the public restroom that matched his gender identity.
— Freedom for All USA (@freedom4allusa) May 25, 2016
The newly-reissued guidelines from the Department of Education simply instruct schools receiving federal money that restricting which bathrooms transgender students can use counts as illegal sex discrimination under Title IX of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. Schools that do not follow these guidelines risk losing federal funds, of which Georgia receives about $2 billion per year for K-12 education. The economic imprint on state higher ed institutions—mostly from student financial aid programs—numbers in the millions.
The guidance will provide school districts with the best practices to ensure transgender students are treated with respect and can fully participate in school so they can graduate with their classmates.
Our own Jeff Graham said in a statement: “We applaud the federal government’s guidance directing all public schools nationwide to protect transgender students against discrimination. Sadly, many transgender students face hostility, discrimination, and bullying. The guidance will provide school districts with the best practices to ensure transgender students are treated with respect and can fully participate in school so they can graduate with their classmates.”
That Georgia even thought about—let alone followed through on—joining this lawsuit is a surprising move considering that only a few months ago Governor Deal vetoed a sweeping anti-LGBT bill (House Bill 757, legislation that would have given Georgia businesses a license to discriminate against LGBT people, including transgender children) under threat of economic backlash. All told, the bill could have cost the state hundreds of millions in frozen investments and lost jobs.
By filing this lawsuit, Governor Nathan Deal and Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens are effectively saying schools should be allowed to discriminate against transgender students—and that they’re willing to forfeit $2 billion in critically needed education funding (which benefits ALL public school students) to fight for that right. The Governor was right to veto Georgia’s License to Discriminate (HB 757) in March. Unfortunately, he and the attorney general are in the wrong now.SHARE THIS STORY