Politics

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has joined 11 other states suing the federal government over a policy requiring local school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches the gender with which they identify.

“The federal government has no authority to dictate local school districts’ bathroom and locker room policies,” Bevin said in a statement released Friday. “The Obama Administration’s transgender policy ‘guidelines’ are an absurd federal overreach into a local issue.”

Bevin criticized Attorney General Andy Beshear for not joining the lawsuit.

“Unfortunately, Attorney General Andy Beshear is unwilling to protect Kentucky’s control over local issues,” Bevin said. “We are committed to protecting the 10th Amendment and fighting federal overreach into state and local issues.”

Beshear responded in a statement Friday afternoon, saying the governor was lying.

“The governor’s statement is not truthful,” he said. “The Office of the Attorney General has been closely reviewing this matter. On the day the federal government issued its guidance, the governor stated he was researching legal options.”

Beshear went on to claim Bevin’s office has not consulted him about the lawsuit and accused the governor of perpetuating what has become an ongoing feud between the two.

“Sadly, this is another example of the governor’s office playing politics instead of trying to work with us,” he said.

Chris Hartman, director of Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign, said the Obama administration’s policy is designed to protect “the most vulnerable” people in public schools.

“I’m deeply disappointed that Gov. Bevin has joined this lawsuit, and I think that at the end of the day, we’re going to see that these states will be on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the law,” he said.

A 2015 bill to require transgender students in Kentucky to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate failed in the General Assembly.

Friday, May 27 2016 at 6 a.m.:

So far, Kentucky has not joined 11 other states suing the Obama administration over a policy that requires public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

And the state might sit the suit out, despite Gov. Matt Bevin’s public position against the policy.

Bevin spoke out against the policy two weeks ago, calling it “absurd” and saying public schools “should not feel compelled to bow to such intimidation.” In an email earlier this week, Bevin’s communications director, Jessica Ditto, said the administration is “still considering our options and monitoring the situation.”

The states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah have joined the lawsuit. School districts from Arizona and Texas, and Maine Gov. Paul Lepage, have also hopped on board.

The U.S. departments of Justice and Education told public school districts earlier this month they could lose federal funding if they prevented transgender students from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

The directive came weeks after North Carolina’s state legislature approved a law requiring people to use bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificates. The Justice Department is suing North Carolina over the law, and that state has countersued.

When asked if he would join other states in suing the federal government, Attorney General Andy Beshear said, “any decision is premature.”

“Neither the federal government nor Gov. Bevin have clearly articulated their legal positions or steps they intend to take regarding enforcement,” Beshear said. “We await that information.”

Bevin has made no legal overtures on the issue, but in his statement condemning the federal policy, he cited the 10th Amendment, which says powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved for the states or the people.

“The federal government has no authority to interfere in local school districts’ bathroom policies,” Bevin wrote in the statement.

The lawsuit brought on by the 11 states was filed in a federal court in Texas.

This story has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.