In an opinion article for the Wall Street Journal, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, did not pull any punches against President Obama's guidelines to schools over transgender students and bathrooms.
The administration’s guidelines said schools must accommodate bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms for students who identify as one gender but may not have the same sex, or face a loss of federal money. The funds are linked to the Title XI provision of the 1972 Civil Rights Act which made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex in schools.
In the op-ed, Pruitt called the directive unconstitutional adding the President “failed to follow basic even the legal procedures” and the administration is telling worried parents “too bad;” their fears are unfounded.
“Constitutionally you can't put a gun to the head of the states and say do this or else. That's something you cannot do. So that's the focus of all that we're about,” Pruitt said about the suit on Friday adding no transgender student should be discriminated against.
Pruitt said the administration is attempting to go around checks and balances of the US government with the school directive. He said the US Department of Education is not allowed to use “mandatory” language nor is it allowed to withhold money. Those powers reside with Congress he said.
Oklahoma is one of 12 states to sue the federal government. All are run by Republican governors. Pruitt maintained the states don't have a problem accommodating for transgender students, but they want any decision to be left up to Congress and the courts.
But not everyone is convinced that is really what is at the heart of the lawsuit. Supporters say the opponents like Pruitt are no different than segregationists in the 1960s, who used bathroom fears to impede civil rights. Rhetoric surrounding black men sexually assaulting white women and young girls was common among anti-integration supporters during the civil rights movement.
“An adult who calls himself a leader, an adult who is the chief attorney in the state is picking on these kids to further his career and that's shameful,” Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson said, hinting at rumors Pruitt is looking to run for higher office after leaving the AG post.
“These kids are not threats, they never have been threats they never will be threats,” He said. “They are scared to go to the bathroom because they're the ones who are attacked.”
Pruitt refuted the claim, when asked, saying the states are the ones being subjected to an attack from federal overreach.
“This is pure and simply a case of defense,” Pruitt said. “[It’s] a defensive posture that we're having to take to get clarity and relief from the courts to say [Mr. Obama] can't do what [he] did!”
The lawsuit is one of several the state of Oklahoma has been involved in against the Obama administration. Pruitt called recent cases against the President’s actions on immigration, the Clean Power Act and the Waters of the United States act, victories, but said this case wasn’t about policy noting it was only about procedure.
The lawsuit, a related bill and a resolution to impeach Mr. Obama surrounding the directive were all condemned by the chambers of commerce in the state’s two largest cities.