Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Jul 27 2016

12 states and District of Columbia opposing Texas lawsuit against federal guidelines on transgender rights

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson will lead a group of states urging a U.S. District Court not to block the federal government’s ability to protect the civil rights of transgender people in a brief to be filed today.

In May, a group of 11 states, led by Texas, asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to issue an injunction blocking federal guidelines that prohibit employers and school districts from discriminating against transgender individuals who seek to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

The lawsuit stems from a directive released in May by the federal government requiring schools and employers to treat transgender people no differently than others “of the same gender identity.”

“Texas’s lawsuit is just another unacceptable example of the discrimination transgender individuals experience,” Ferguson said. “While Texas and other states hide behind unfounded safety concerns, this case is really an attempt to deny the civil rights of our transgender friends, coworkers and family members.”

In an amicus — or “friend of the court” — brief filed today with the U.S. District Court, Ferguson argues that while the Plaintiffs’ claims of harm are unsupported, discrimination against transgender individuals is very real.

A group of 12 states and the District of Columbia, led by Washington, argue that transgender individuals experience discrimination at work, school and in public, causing them economic, emotional and health consequences. Protecting the civil rights of transgender individuals is thus important to all members of the public.

Nearly 20 states, including Washington, offer explicit civil rights protections for transgender people, the brief points out, either through definitions of sex discrimination or by prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.

None of these states has seen a rise in sexual violence or any other public safety issues as a result of these nondiscrimination laws, according to The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women. The organization represents more than 200 rape crisis centers, shelters and other service providers in 43 states.

Texas also argues that complying with the rules would present an economic burden to the states because of potential new construction, a notion that Ferguson’s brief refutes. States like Washington have found many ways to avoid gender identity discrimination without incurring construction costs.

Ultimately, Ferguson asserts, the arguments against allowing transgender people access to bathrooms according to their gender identity are rooted in negative attitudes and misplaced fear about transgender people, not fact or law.

Solicitor General Noah Purcell, Deputy Solicitor General Alan Copsey and Assistant Attorney General Colleen Melody, the chief of the AGO’s Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit, are handling this case on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office.

Joining Washington in the brief are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov