Gov. Phil Bryant

Gov. Phil Bryant joins 11 other Republican-led states in a lawsuit against the Obama administration, which recently advised public schools to allow transgender students to use facilities that match their gender identity.

Filed May 25 in Texas, the lawsuit’s original plaintiffs also included Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. That action came after the federal education and justice departments issued a letter instructing schools that treating transgender students differently would violate Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in public education.

The states argue that the White House directive violates the federal “Administrative Procedure Act” as well as the the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because every student would not be able to use any bathroom or locker room they choose.

“(I)f the right or ability to use the intimate facilities of one’s choosing extends only to those who self-identify as the opposite sex then the new rules, regulations, guidance and interpretations treat unequally students and employees that require access to intimate areas,” the complaint states.

Mississippi is joining the suit despite the fact that the state board of education voted unanimously on Tuesday to reject the federal government’s directive and follow the guidance from the state’s elected leadership.

A spokesman for Gov. Bryant told the Clarion-Ledger that one of the governor’s lawyers would handle the case because Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, declined to represent the state in the matter.

Hood said through a statement that he opted against representing the state because his office last year joined a lawsuit in the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, he said, “to stop the Department of Justice from interfering with the way in which local schools operate their restrooms.” In April, a three-judge panel ruled in that case that a transgender student, who was born female, could sue his school district because he wasn’t allowed to use the boys’ bathroom.

Hood also said he questioned whether plaintiffs in the suit have standing because federal funding has not been yanked and that, moreover, he has a different opinion on how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the issue.

“The governor has opted to join Texas in its broad lawsuit against the federal government in his capacity as governor alone. Only the attorney general can represent our state in such lawsuits, which includes all branches of government and, more important, all of the people of our state. I cannot lend the name of the state of Mississippi to this lawsuit,” Hood said in a news release.

“I strongly encourage our state leaders to shift their focus to issues that are directly impacting our citizens every day, such as education, mental health, roads and bridges, and public safety. I can assure them that Mississippi families are concerned more about these challenges than about lawsuits over restrooms.”

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, however, applauded Bryant for adding Mississippi to the case.

“I appreciate Gov. Bryant representing Mississippi kids’ interest in this lawsuit fighting massive federal overreach into our communities,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said in a news release.

Ryan L. Nave, a native of University City, Mo., served as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief from May 2018 until April 2020. Ryan began his career with Mississippi Today February 2016 as an original member of the editorial team. He became news editor August 2016. Ryan has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked for Illinois Times and served as news editor for the Jackson Free Press.