Coalition of 20 states files lawsuit to overturn Biden gender identity directive

Twenty states filed a lawsuit on Monday seeking to overturn Biden administration’s guidance allowing transgender employees and students to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity. The plaintiffs, who filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, are a coalition of GOP-run states. The state of Tennessee is joined by Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

The conflict arises out of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Education’s (DOE) interpretation of a Supreme Court case. In the case, Bostock v. Clayton County, the court interpreted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as barring employers from firing employees based on their sexuality or gender identity. The DOE and EEOC reasoned that the case called for student and employee protections surrounding gender identity.

The states argue that the DOE’s explanation is not sufficient because Bostock “expressly disclaimed any intent to interpret other federal or state laws that prohibit sex discrimination.” Moreover, the states argue that the EEOC overextended their interpretation of Bostock, entering into an area of the law that the Supreme Court expressly chose not to prejudge. The states view the actions as a usurpation of agency authority, acting in a manner in which only Congress is authorized.

The decision in the case could have broad implications for transgender individuals. If states are successful, Congress would likely need to pass legislation if they wished to protect gender identity rights in all 50 states.