The Obama administration has issued a directive requiring all public schools in the United States to allow transgender students access to single sex bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, and at least one state has indicated that it will contest the order.
Leaders at the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice will issue a guidance Friday telling public school districts across the country that they must treat students in a manner that is consistent with the with their chosen gender identity.
Associated Press reports that all that a student has to do to declare himself as a gender different than his biological sex, is have a parent or guardian call and notify his or her school district that the student's identity "differs from previous representations or records." No medical diagnosis or documents are needed to prove a transgender identity.
Additionally, the directive states that offering a single-use bathroom for transgender individuals is also discriminatory.
Although the Education Department's Civil Rights Office has already forced some public schools to open their bathrooms, locker rooms and showers designated for the opposite biological sex to transgender students, Friday's guidance is an attempt to make the policy consistent in schools all over the country.
"There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement accompanying the order.
The order comes as the Justice Department has gotten entangled in a legal battle with the state of North Carolina after the agency demanded the state not enforce its recently passed law requiring everyone to use state-run bathrooms consistent with the sex on their birth certificate. (Those who undergo sex-reassignment surgery can change the sex on their birth certificate.)
While North Carolina gears up for a court date with the Obama administration, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has already indicated that his state will fight the Obama administration's order.
"Obama is turning bathrooms into courtroom issues," Abbott told delegates at Texas' GOP Convention in Dallas on Thursday. "I want you to know, I am working with the governor of North Carolina, and we are going to fight back."
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also decried the order, tellingNBC< that the directive will be the "beginning of the end of the public school system as we know it."
"President Obama, in the dark of the night — without consulting Congress, without consulting educators, without consulting parents — decides to issue an executive order, like this superintendent, forcing transgender policies on schools and on parents who clearly don't want it," Patrick said.
Although the guidance does not impose any new legal requirements, Education Secretary John King said in a statement that the guidance is meant to outline the expectations of school districts that receive money from the federal government in upholding Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.
"The state here wishes to use its coercive power not simply to stop mistreatment of people but to rescript the most basic human intuitions about humanity as male and female," Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote on his blog.
"How, after all, does one win a culture war against one of the most basic facts of science and life: that there are two sexes?" Moore asks. "One does so by withholding the funds and recognition necessary to operate in public space, unless institutions get in line. Children, then, become pawns of the state for the state to teach what is ultimately a theological lesson, not a scientific one."
The administration's guidance comes with the heated opposition of a number of conservative organizations, who argue that an accommodation for such a small percentage of the population shouldn't come at the cost of the privacy rights of many others.
Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, said in a statement that the administration "overstepped" its legal boundaries.
"Local school districts with the input of parents and health professionals should be setting school policy on such a sensitive and controversial issue, not Washington," Nance said in a statement. "[T]he left always uses children to accomplish it's goals of social reengineering. The adults closest to these children should decide what's best for all the children in the school. Safety and kindness should be the guiding principles, not threats from the bullies in Washington."