Metro Weekly

Texas state officials interfering in HB 2 lawsuit

Opponents hope to establish anti-trans federal legal precedent

Paxton (Credit: Office of the Texas Attorney General).

Ken Paxton (Credit: Office of the Texas Attorney General).

Thirteen states that are suing the federal government over the Obama administration’s guidance on transgender rights in schools have inserted themselves into an ongoing lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s HB 2 law.

No longer content to concern themselves with their own legal proceedings, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, joined by 10 other state attorneys general and two governors, has asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder to put the Justice Department’s lawsuit on hold.

Doing so would essentially keep HB 2 in place while two other lawsuits challenging the Obama administration move forward in other judicial circuits, BuzzFeed‘s Chris Geidner reports.

The states hope that by putting the North Carolina case on hold, they will be able to obtain rulings from other judges that allow them to undermine the Department of Education’s guidance on transgender children.

Part of that guidance involves allowing transgender children to use restrooms and other facilities that are consistent with their gender identity. As justification, the opponents have cited an injunction issued by a federal judge in Texas that prevents the Obama administration from forcing school districts to adopt policies that comply with its guidance.

“While the [Texas] injunction does not specifically prevent DOJ from continuing this litigation, and this Court has acknowledged the same, it nonetheless supports (1) staying these proceedings pending the Supreme Court’s disposition of the certiorari petition filed on Aug. 29, 2016 in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. ex rel. Grimm, (2) staying these proceedings pending the Fourth Circuit’s disposition of the newly filed notice of appeal by the individual plaintiffs in this matter, and denying the preliminary relief requested by the United States,” the anti-trans state officials wrote in their brief.

“Indeed, now that the federal policies at issue are subject to a nationwide injunction, will be inspected again by the Fourth Circuit, and also scrutinized by the Supreme Court, granting the United States’ preliminary injunction motion would bestow upon North Carolina the distinction of making it the only State unable to enforce its policy regarding access to intimate areas.”

On Aug. 1, Schroeder heard the Department of Justice’s request to issue an injunction against the state of North Carolina. That injunction would prevent the state from enforcing HB 2, which limits transgender and intersex people to using only the restroom that pertains to their biological sex at birth, as listed on their birth certificate.

Last week, Schroeder also decided to block the University of North Carolina and the state of North Carolina from enforcing HB 2’s provisions against three specific transgender individuals in a separate challenge to the law. But he hasn’t yet ruled on the Justice Department’s request, which is much broader and would apply to all public restrooms with single-sex segregated facilities.

In a blog post, the Human Rights Campaign attacked Paxton, who spearheaded the decision to interfere in the HB 2 case, for his continued animosity towards the LGBT community, while also noting he has an ulterior motive.

“If the proceedings are put on hold in the North Carolina case, it would allow other cases — including Paxton’s own Texas v. U.S. — to be heard by a federal court first and potentially have a significant role in creating legal precedent,” HRC writes. “Essentially, Paxton is trying to be the first to create anti-transgender legal precedent at the federal court level, allowing him to take first place in the anti-transgender discrimination race.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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