Kentucky will join lawsuit against Obama administration's transgender bathroom guidelines, Bevin says

05/27/2016 01:16 PM

UPDATED: Kentucky will join 11 other states in a federal lawsuit against transgender bathroom guidelines laid out by President Barack Obama’s administration, Gov. Matt Bevin announced Friday.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Texas, follows a directive by the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Justice Department and other federal agencies on Wednesday, came in response to a directive by the Obama administration that individuals’ gender identities are covered by sexual discrimination laws and that schools could jeopardize federal education funding if policies are adopted to bar transgender students from using the restroom of their gender identity.

Bevin called the president’s policy on transgender bathroom use “an absurd federal overreach into a local issue.”

“Unfortunately, Attorney General Andy Beshear is unwilling to protect Kentucky’s control over local issues,” Bevin said in a statement. “Therefore, my administration will do so by joining this lawsuit. We are committed to protecting the Tenth Amendment and fighting federal overreach into state and local issues.”

But Beshear countered that his office had been reviewing the issue when Bevin’s administration announced they were exploring legal options.

“I expected to be consulted on those options, but my office has not received a single phone call from the governor or his attorneys on this matter,” he said in a statement.

“The Office of Attorney General works to protect families every day from abuse, crime, scams and other threats. Any statement that it does not stand up for Kentucky families is entirely false. Sadly, this is another example of the governor’s office playing politics instead of trying to work with us.”

Tres Watson, spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, also blamed Beshear for inaction and continuing “to be more interested in playing politics than standing up for Kentucky.”

“Thankfully, Governor Bevin is willing to take the lead in protecting the 10th Amendment and the rights of Kentucky families from federal overreach and intimidation,” he said in a statement.

Amber Duke, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said transgender individuals have been covered by anti-discrimination laws that haven’t changed.

“In schools and businesses across the country, and here in the commonwealth, transgender people have been protected from discrimination, including in restrooms and locker rooms, for years and even decades,” Duke said in a statement. “There have been no disruptions, increases in public safety incidents, or invasions of privacy related to those protections.

“By joining this lawsuit Governor Bevin is sending a troubling message to young transgender Kentuckians and adults who simply seek to live their lives free from discrimination.”

The Department of Justice sued North Carolina May 9 after the state passed a bill mandating public employees and students utilize restrooms corresponding to their biological sex.

A similar bill on transgender students’ bathroom use in Kentucky died in the House Education Committee without a hearing after passing the GOP-led Senate on a 27-9 vote.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, praised Bevin’s move, calling the Obama administration’s interpretation of civil rights laws “unprecedented.”

“I also urge Attorney General Beshear and House and Senate Democrats to support the federal lawsuit to protect local control of Kentucky schools from federal overreach and Tenth Amendment violations,” Stivers said in a statement.

“We must stand with Governor Bevin in opposing strong-arm tactics of the Obama Administration. Those tactics threaten the removal of taxpayer funds to compel Kentucky schools to conform to novel and dubious interpretations of federal law.”

House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, also chided Beshear for not demonstrating “leadership on this effort.”

“It is obvious that the numerous controversies involving the Attorney General’s office are distracting him from one of the most important facets of his job, to represent the Commonwealth,” he said in a statement. “It is imperative that he put away his animosity toward Governor Bevin and his administration and attend to his constitutional duties.”

Other states involved in the federal suit are Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia, plus Maine Gov. Paul LePage and the Arizona Department of Education.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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