The State of Georgia has joined a lawsuit initiated by the state of Texas asking for relief from the threats to withhold federal funds if schools do not comply with policies outlined in a Dear Colleague letter released earlier this month that directs schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities corresponding to the student’s gender identity rather than their gender assigned at birth. In addition to Georgia and Texas, plaintiffs include Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Among other things, the suit alleges that the directives regarding Title VII, the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and Title IX, which covers sex discrimination in education; violate states’ rights under the 10th Amendment, and equal protection of the law under the 14th amendment because they treat students who identify as their birth sex and students who identify as the other gender differently. The lawsuit also claims that the regulations are arbitrary and capricious, and are unconstitutionally coercive.
Shortly after the Dear Colleague letter was released, Governor Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens issued statements indicating they were monitoring the situation, and asking State Scuool Superintendent Richard Woods to formulate policies addressing the issue. Today, upon joining the Texas suit, Olens issued this statement:
The guidance letter is yet another example of the President’s unconstitutional overreach. The Constitution gives only Congress the power to write and rewrite laws. Threatening to withhold taxpayer dollars from schools if they don’t comply with this new and legally unsound mandate is unconstitutional. I will continue to defend the Constitution on behalf of Georgians.
You can view the suit here.
While most of the objections to the directives in the guidance letter deal with restrooms and locker rooms in elementary and secondary schools, virtually nothing has been said about another portion of the Dear Colleague letter that appears to apply to public colleges and universities. Section 3, which provides guidance on how to deal with various scenarios concerning the rights of transgender students includes this paragraph:
Title IX allows a school to provide separate housing on the basis of sex. But a school must allow transgender students to access housing consistent with their gender identity and may not require transgender students to stay in single-occupancy accommodations or to disclose personal information when not required of other students. Nothing in Title IX prohibits a school from honoring a student’s voluntary request for single occupancy accommodations if it so chooses.
This section would appear to require colleges and universities to assign dormitory roommates based on a student’s gender identity, rather than the sex assigned at birth. And that would mean that the transgender rights issue now extends beyond school systems and now involves the University System of Georgia and other colleges and universities that accept federal aid.