FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky will join 11 other states suing the Obama administration over its directive to to allow transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding with their chosen gender identity in public schools.
Gov. Matt Bevin made the announcement in a press release on Friday.
“The federal government has no authority to dictate local school districts' bathroom and locker room policies,” Bevin said in the statement.
“The Obama Administration’s transgender policy ‘guidelines’ are an absurd federal overreach into a local issue.”
A joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice was sent to public school districts on May 13. The letter stated that in order to comply with Title IX, public schools must treat transgender students in a way that corresponds with their gender identity.
Critics of the guidance say that it is a threat to students’ safety, while supporters say that it protects transgender students’ civil rights.
In response to Obama's directive, 11 states filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, asking a North Texas federal court to declare the directive unlawful.
The Obama administration has "conspired to turn workplace and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights," the lawsuit reads.
Kentucky will join Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia in the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant also announced his intention to join the lawsuit on Thursday.
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, commended the governor’s actions. The Kentucky Baptist Convention is a cooperating group of nearly 2,400 churches in Kentucky.
"I'm grateful for the Bevin administration's stand on behalf of the citizens of Kentucky,” Chitwood said.
“President Obama's demand that public schools jump onto the gender fraud bandwagon is nonsense. Bathroom privacy for the protection of schoolchildren isn't asking for much and it's definitely a right worth fighting for to ensure the safety and dignity of our kids."
Obama’s guidance came in the midst of a court battle between the federal government and North Carolina over a bathroom access law that the federal government says violates the rights of transgender people.
A similar bill was proposed in Kentucky last year, but didn’t pass.
Obama’s directive said that students must be treated in accordance with their gender identity. Students are under no obligation to present a specific medical diagnosis or identification documents that reflect his or her gender identity. According to the directive, equal access must be given to transgender students even in instances when it makes others uncomfortable.
“A school’s Title IX obligation to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns,” the May 13 letter stated.
Rather than create a new law, the directive offers the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, a law that prohibits discrimination in schools on the basis of sex. The directive interprets Title IX to make “gender identity” synonymous with “sex.”
Bevin has previously said that under the Tenth Amendment, the federal government "no authority to interfere in local school districts' bathroom policies.”
In his statement Friday, 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. Therefore, my administration will do so by joining this lawsuit. We are committed to protecting the Tenth Amendment and fighting federal overreach into state and local issues,” Bevin said.
Beshear responded in a statement Friday afternoon, calling Bevin’s claims untrue.
“The Governor’s statement is not truthful,” Beshear 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. I expected to be consulted on those options, but my office has not received a single phone call from the governor or his attorneys on this matter…Sadly, this is another example of the governor’s office playing politics instead of trying to work with us.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.