TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL)- Dozens of Tennessee lawmakers are calling on the state to stand up to a directive issued by the Obama Administration about bathrooms.
In response to bathroom legislation around the country, the White House has given a direct order to public schools: let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their current gender identity.
Thirty-three Tennessee lawmakers signed a letter this week, addressed to Tennessee’s attorney general asking him to sue the federal government over these guidelines.
The message some say is behind the federal government’s directive: public schools needs to follow its guidance, or potentially face loss of federal funding.
“I would’ve never believed we’d be doing this but here we are,” TN Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R)- Blountville said. He said it’s a debate he never dreamed of having. “I can’t believe that the federal government is telling school systems that a 16-year-old boy can use a 16-year-old girl’s locker room just because he says he feels that way. I can see making other accommodations for them but not that,” Ramsey said.
Dozens of legislators say the federal government has no legal authority to tell public schools to let transgender students use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.
“I am encouraging our attorney general to join in with some other attorney generals on a lawsuit on the federal government,” Ramsey said.
“Every transgender child is a part of someone’s family and so they deserve to be treated with respect, but that’s no excuse for a federal executive agency to start acting like a national school board,” United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R)-Tennessee said. He said this isn’t something that should come out of D.C.
“The state, the local school board, classroom teachers. Those closest to the children should make the decision of how to show compassion for and give equal opportunity to every single child,” Alexander said.
But the question of who has the authority is still up for debate.
“The question will get answered in these lawsuits, these lawsuits are over the interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and if they interpret it one way effectively we will be saying this is a national civil rights issue, if its interpreted another way that will simply throw it back to the states,” Constitutional law professor Stewart Harris said.
Ramsey said regardless of what happens with the lawsuit, “The policy they adopted is not a law, a law will have to go through Congress. So I don’t think any state will abide by this, I really don’t and I don’t think they’ll have the guts to withhold funding because of this.”
Ramsey said there has been talk of calling a special legislative session to address this issue but he said he hopes the attorney general will join in on this lawsuit instead.
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