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Utah Joins Lawsuit Over Transgender-Restroom Guidelines

Civil-rights advocates say Utah officials are wasting time and money by joining a lawsuit challenging recent federal guidance to schools on the restroom rights of transgender students. (iStockphoto)
Civil-rights advocates say Utah officials are wasting time and money by joining a lawsuit challenging recent federal guidance to schools on the restroom rights of transgender students. (iStockphoto)
May 27, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah officials are hearing a firestorm of criticism over joining a lawsuit against the Obama administration's guidance on how schools should treat transgender students. Utah, joined by 10 other mostly "red" states, wants to overturn a Justice Department determination that transgender students should be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

Anna Brower, communications manager for the ACLU of Utah, said the suit targets vulnerable young people.

"While the Obama Administration is being sued, the real targets here are vulnerable people," she said, "especially young people who are just trying to live their lives -- free from discrimination when they go to school, go to work or go to the bathroom."

Gov. Gary Herbert said Utah joined the lawsuit, originally filed by Texas, because he sees the guidance as a "one-size-fits-all mandate," when states and individual schools should be addressing the issue. Herbert accused President Obama of politicizing schools through, as he put it, an "extreme example of federal overreach."

On the other hand, Brower called the lawsuit "political theater" and said she believes it will get nowhere in the courts.

"You have the civil rights laws on the books -- Title VII, Title IX of the Civil Rights Act -- which already prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex," she said, "and the federal courts and agencies have recognized already that this includes protections for transgender people."

Other states joining the lawsuit so far include Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The lawsuit is online at texasattorneygeneral.gov.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT