House Republicans asked the departments of Education and Justice to clarify their transgender bathroom directive for public schools, but the Obama administration isn’t answering. Now, a congressman from North Carolina is rebuking the White House for pulling “a political stunt.”
Seventy-three House Republicans, led by Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., signed a May 23 letter pushing the administration to detail how, and on what authority, it plans to enforce the guidelines. A week later, the administration has not responded.
Walker described the silence as “concerning” and accused the administration of lawlessness. “It shows once again,” Walker said in a prepared statement Wednesday, “that President Obama uses the federal bureaucracy to enforce his political agenda with total disregard for the law.”
The release from Walker’s office calls Obama’s action “a political stunt.”
The White House caught Republicans by surprise, dropping the new guidelines May 13 when most members were heading back to their districts.
The sweeping directive instructs publicly funded schools to extend federal Title IX protections, which prohibit sex-based discrimination, to transgender students. And while the new rules do not carry the force of law, they contain an inherent threat: comply or lose federal funding.
“The directive on public school bathrooms has created much uncertainty for teachers, parents, and schools,” Walker said, “and getting answers to these questions are pivotal in keeping our schools and our communities safe.”
But while the administration has remained silent, the president has not.
Without clarifying details, Obama described his directive as “part of our obligation as a society to make sure everybody is treated fairly and our kids are all loved and protected,” during a May 16 interview with BuzzFeed News.
In addition to the battle over the bathroom order, which directs schools to let transgender students use the bathroom and locker rooms of their choice, fights over gender identity and religious liberty have erupted elsewhere this spring.
The Department of Justice sent a cease-and-desist letter to North Carolina on May 4, informing the state that its recently passed House Bill 2, requiring single-sex multiple occupancy bathrooms in state buildings, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
That legislation overruled a local Charlotte ordinance that allowed individuals to choose public bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, not their biological sex.
Walker complained that the Obama administration gave his home state just three business days to reply. North Carolina and the federal government have filed competing lawsuits against each other over the issue.
And last week, an amendment introduced by Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., derailed an energy and water spending bill. The amendment, which would codify an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual identity and gender identity, now threatens to disrupt the entire appropriations process in Congress.