Georgia sued the Obama administration Wednesday over a directive to public schools over transgender bathroom rules, joining a group of 11 states challenging the federal government over the controversial guidelines.
It was a surprising move from state leaders, who last week blasted the guidance that directed public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity as a “federal overreach” but stopped short of endorsing a lawsuit.
Attorney General Sam Olens said Wednesday, though, that Georgia was compelled to act because of the implicit threat that the federal government could withhold funding from schools if they refuse to comply with what he called a “legally unsound mandate.”
“The guidance letter is yet another example of the President’s unconstitutional overreach,” said Olens. “The Constitution gives only Congress the power to write and rewrite laws.”
The states that have joined the lawsuit are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Obama’s guidance was released days after the U.S. Department of Justice and North Carolina filed near-simultaneous lawsuits over the state law that requires transgender people to use the public restroom at schools and other public places that matches the sex on their birth certificates.
The directive is not a mandate and does not carry the force of law, but schools that ignore it could potentially lose federal funding. The federal government provides about $2 billion a year to Georgia in k-12 education funding each year.
Several Georgia districts have signaled they would comply, though state Superintendent Richard Woods said he had “safety and privacy concerns” about the new policy.