Judge blocks federal transgender sports, bathroom guidance in Tennessee, 19 other states

A federal judge in Tennessee ruled in favor of Tennessee and 19 other states in their effort to block federal guidelines on transgender athletes and school locker rooms.

The lawsuit, brought by Tennessee, challenged guidance from the United States Department of Education and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that would allow athletes who were marked as males on their birth certificates to compete in girls and women’s sports. The federal guidance also would have prohibited student shower and locker room access from being determined by birth gender and provided guidance on required pronoun use.

U.S. District Judge Charles Atchley granted a temporary injunction against the federal guidance, enjoining Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

"The District Court rightly recognized the federal government put Tennessee and other states in an impossible situation: choose between the threat of legal consequences including the withholding of federal funding — or altering our state laws to comply," said Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. "Keep in mind these new, transformative rules were made without you — without your elected leaders in Congress having a say, which is what the law requires. We are thankful the Court put a stop to it, maintained the status quo as the lawsuit proceeds, and reminded the federal government it cannot direct its agencies to rewrite the law."

Tennessee’s suit questioned whether the federal departments had the authority to enforce its guidance according to the Administrative Procedure Act, which determines what authority a government agency has and the procedures to develop and issue those regulations.

The federal departments contested that the guidance was not a final action and that the states could resolve the issues outside of court, meaning the court could not review the matter under APA. But Atchley disagreed.

"Because there are questions as to Defendants’ compliance with the APA, the public would benefit from a preliminary injunction," Atchley wrote. "An injunction will ensure that the agencies are not exceeding their express authority delegated by Congress."

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