Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick React to Obama Administration Restroom Directive
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have vowed opposition to a sweeping Obama administration directive instructing public schools nationwide to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.
The directive does not carry the force of law, but threatens legal action against or possible withholding of federal funds from schools that do not adhere to the White House's interpretation of anti-discrimination laws, particularly Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.
In an interview with KXAS-TV in Dallas, Abbot said the Obama administration drafted the directive "in the dark of the night" in order to "forc[e] transgender policies on schools and on parents who clearly don't want it."
During that interview, Abbott again called for the resignation of Fort Worth Schools Superintendent Kent Scribner, who recently established a code requiring school officials in his district to offer transgender students access to a single-stall restroom or the opportunity to use a restroom when no other students are present.
Scribner has refused past demands for his resignation, and his policy was at the center of a crowded Fort Worth ISD meeting Tuesday evening.
At a press conference Friday, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said Texas is willing to forgo billions in federal funds over the issue.
"Well, in Texas, he (referring to President Obama) can keep his 30 pieces of silver," Patrick told reporters. "We will not yield to blackmail from the President of the United States."
In a Thursday evening Facebook post, Patrick wrote, "[T]he unilateral action by the Fort Worth Superintendent on Transgender Policy was part of a bigger Obama agenda," and that opponents who criticized him for becoming involved a local issue "will likely cheer the President for getting involved in every school district in America."
Friday's federal directive was issued just days after the Justice Department and North Carolina sued one another over a state law requiring transgender people to use the public bathroom that corresponds to the gender specified on their birth certificate.
White House Press Secretary John Earnest responded to Patrick's remarks Friday afternoon.
"This is not an enforcement action," he said. "This does not add any additional requirements to any school district or state under the applicable law. This is in response to extensive requests for guidance and for information and advice that have been put forward by school administrators and teachers and in some cases, even parents, who are seeking practical solutions to this challenge."
Earnest took a swipe at Patrick during the White House press conference, commenting, "Well I think this does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to an elected statewide office."