SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah has joined 10 other states to sue the Obama administration over its directive to U.S. public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
The decision isn’t surprising considering Gov. Gary Herbert vowed to fight the order if necessary after it was issued. The Republican leader repeated Wednesday in a statement that he considers the order an “extreme example of federal overreach.”
“Local schools can and should work directly with parents and students to find appropriate, individualized solutions,” Herbert said. “It is unfortunate that the president has chosen to politicize our schools.”
Last week, Herbert told reporters that he believes the bathroom directive would harm transgender students by forcing them to use a facility that’s not private and exacerbate any bullying they may experience.
Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said Utah’s decision to join the lawsuit sends a harmful message to transgender Utah students who are often bullied and harassed. The directive could be life-saving for transgender students, Williams said.
“When you see your state coming out aggressively against policies that benefit your life, that has such a detrimental impact on your sense of value,” ” Williams said.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said Wednesday in a statement the “one size fits all mandate” ignores what parents, schools and community leaders think. Reyes said the decision to sue isn’t about bathrooms, but “executive branch overreach.”
Reyes said Utah and other states asked for clarity, but “the silence from the federal government has resulted in an environment of confusion for educators and administrators.”
State lawmakers plan to hold a hearing sometime this summer to look at how the directive affects schools and transgender students.