LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas’ governor and attorney general hailed Monday a ruling by a federal judge in Texas that blocked enforcement of federal guidelines on transgender bathroom access in public schools.
Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a nationwide injunction Sunday night temporarily barring federal agencies from taking action against states that do not follow the government’s guidance, issued in May, advising public schools to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
President Barack Obama’s administration has threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that do not follow the guidance. O’Connor barred enforcement of the guidance while a lawsuit by Texas and a dozen other states proceeds.
O’Connor, an appointee of George W. Bush, said that the guidance contradicts existing laws and regulations, the states did not receive enough notice and time to comment, and the plaintiffs are likely to win on the merits of the case.
Arkansas has joined with Nebraska and eight other states in a separate lawsuit challenging the guidance. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson previously advised Arkansas public schools to disregard the directive.
Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said Monday, “The governor is pleased with the judge’s ruling. He hasn’t had a chance to review the specifics of it yet but will do so soon.”
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement, “The administration’s intimidation of local school districts with a federal directive that unlawfully ignores the role of Congress has forced half of the states in the nation to stand up against this radical social agenda. I am pleased that the district court in Texas has acted to protect districts across the country while the full legality of this policy is determined. I am confident it will be determined that the Obama administration once again overstepped in its attempt to rewrite law.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Transgender Law Center and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, which previously joined in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the guidance in the case in the Texas federal court, said in a statement Monday:
“A ruling by a single judge in one circuit cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination. … We will continue to file lawsuits representing transgender students and litigate them to the fullest extent of the law — regardless of what happens with this particular federal guidance.”
Hutchinson and some Arkansas state legislators have said they expect bathroom access in public schools to be an issue in the legislative session that begins in January.