WASHINGTON — Thirteen states that have sued President Barack Obama’s administration over its policy on transgender access to bathrooms asked a federal court in Texas on Wednesday to prevent the administration from enforcing the policy while their lawsuit proceeds.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the motion in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on behalf of the state coalition.
“Schools are facing the potential loss of funding for simply exercising the authority to implement the policies that best protect their students,” Paxton said in a statement on Wednesday.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage has pledged his name in support of the Texas lawsuit.
LePage spokesman Peter Steele pointed out that Maine is not a plaintiff in the suit but that the governor has signed on to it “pro se,” which means on his own personal behalf.
The 13-state coalition’s lawsuit is one of several state-based challenges to the federal government’s May directive that public schools must allow transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity or face the loss of federal funding.
The issue has thrown transgender rights into the national spotlight and enraged social conservatives who say federal civil rights protections encompass biological sex, not gender identity.
A Justice Department official told the states’ lawyers that the department opposed the motion but agreed to respond to it faster than usual so that the matter could be resolved before the start of the 2016-17 school year, according to the injunction motion.
The Justice Department declined to comment, “due to pending litigation.” It must respond to the injunction request by July 27, according to the motion.
The lawsuit is expected to be heard by conservative judges at the district and appeals court levels, and it could end up heading to the U.S. Supreme Court if the appeals court rules against the Obama administration.
The Justice Department also is battling North Carolina in federal court over a North Carolina state law approved in March that prohibits people from using public restrooms not corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.
The Justice Department asked the court in that case to enjoin the North Carolina law late on Tuesday.
In June, a Virginia school board announced that it would seek Supreme Court review of a court ruling that gave a transgender high-school student access to the bathroom of his gender identity.
LePage and other conservatives had asked a federal court in Virginia to block the transgender boy’s challenge of his school district’s bathroom-use policy, arguing he is “biologically of the female sex.”
A brief from LePage and other state Republican officials challenges the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit on behalf of Gavin Grimm, who used the boys’ restroom at his Virginia school before its school board adopted a policy in 2014 that effectively requires transgender students to use private bathrooms.
The governor drew criticism from the ACLU and an LGBT-rights group for wading into a battle over an issue that has been settled in Maine, but his office hasn’t commented on the brief.
In 2014, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of Nicole Maines in a similar lawsuit against the Orono school district, guaranteeing transgender students the right to use school bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify.