Texas’ latest legal battle with the federal government will have its first day in court tomorrow.
Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with about a dozen other states, are suing the feds over a set of guidelines allowing transgender students to use school bathrooms that match their gender identity. Now, the request for a preliminary injunction will be held in a U.S. District Court in Fort Worth.
Tom Benning, who has been reporting on the story for the Dallas Morning News, says that it all started with guidelines that Fort Worth ISD passed years ago, allowing students to use restroom facilities that match their gender identity. Then, when the federal government issued similar guidelines, the school district’s existing rules became a “flashpoint” that led to the current legal battle.
“That set off a firestorm in Texas. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick came up to Fort Worth and held some rallies up there, called for the superintendent to be fired,” Benning says. “(It’s) kind of this front in these new cultural wars that we’re seeing not only in Texas, but all across the United States.”
Though the federal government says that the guidelines are just that – guidelines – and aren’t binding or being enforced, state officials believe differently.
“They’re saying that basically the federal government is trying to strong-arm these local schools into following this policy, even if it’s not binding inherently,” Benning says.
At the center of the lawsuit is the question of whether gender identity is a protected under Title IX.
“Really this issues comes down to one word. And the word is ‘sex’ as it’s used in federal law,” Benning says. “The question is, does sex include gender identity when you’re looking at what the law says, as it relates to these discrimination statutes? The state of Texas and other folks are taking a pretty hardline view that sex means … biological sex.”