A Virginia school board has voted unanimously in favor of requiring students to use locker rooms and bathrooms matching their biological gender.
The Grayson County School Board, in the southwestern part of the state, voted 5-0 last Friday to approve the bathroom ordinance, which is designed to prevent transgender students from using bathrooms they feel match their gender identities, if not their biological sex.
The move comes despite a statement from the school’s superintendent, Kelly Wilmore, that there are currently no transgender students enrolled at the school.
The vote is a preemptive strike and the local community’s response to the Obama administration’s recent declaration that public schools must allow transgender students to choose which restrooms they use based on gender identity.
The new Grayson County policy defines “sex” specifically as, “an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth” and states that “an individual’s original birth certificate may be relied upon as a definitive evidence of the individual’s sex.”
The Arizona-based conservative Christian nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom came out in support of the vote, according to local news station WDBJ-7, while the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia used the hashtag “#shameful” in its tweet about the new policy.
— ACLU of Virginia (@ACLUVA) May 23, 2016
The ordinance passed by the Grayson County School Board on Friday is just the latest in a series of defiant actions taken against the joint directive issued by the U.S. departments of Justice and Education, which issued the directive earlier this month amid the federal government’s current legal battle over a controversial North Carolina law that aims to regulate where transgender people can go to the bathroom.
In fact, before the order was even officially issued, Texas state leaders had made clear which side they were on.
“This will be the beginning of the end of the public school system as we know it,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declared shortly after news reports surfaced about the forthcoming directive.
At the Texas GOP Convention in Dallas, Gov. Greg Abbott assured fellow Republicans that the Lone Star State would not give in to the federal government’s orders.
“I want you to know, I am working with the governor of North Carolina, and we are going to fight back,” Abbott stated. “Our country is in crisis, and Texas must lead the way forward.”
Abbott later took to Twitter to double down on his opposition to Obama’s directive.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 13, 2016
JFK wanted to send a man to the moon. Obama wants to send a man to the women’s restroom. We must get our country back on track. #tcot
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 17, 2016
It didn’t take long for other Republican governors to follow Abbott’s lead. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant called the bathroom guidance “the most outrageous example yet of the Obama administration forcing its liberal agenda on states that roundly reject it.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson deemed the directive “social engineering” and urged schools to ignore it, while in Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said, “It’s difficult to imagine a more absurd federal overreach into a local issue.”
In Virginia, however, the Grayson County School Board appears to have acted independently of Virginia’s Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe, who, just one week after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed that state’s controversial House Bill 2 into law, vetoed a “religious freedom” measure that he argued would legalize anti-LGBT discrimination.
According to WDBJ-7, the Grayson County school bathroom policy was introduced to the school board by state Sen. Bill Carrico, who also happened to sponsor the very bill that McAuliffe vetoed.
“As the father of a high school student, it is appalling to me,” Carrico told the Christian Science Monitor in a recent interview about bathroom bills. “Where is my daughter’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy? Where? She has none? There’s only two sexes — a male and a female. Nothing protects transgender as a sex.”
So-called “bathroom bills” and the rights of transgender individuals have been the subject of heated national debate ever since North Carolina’s McCrory signed HB2 — which also prevents local governments from enacting nondiscrimination laws without state approval — into law this March.
Days before the federal government released its public school guidance, McCrory had refused to heed Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s call to repeal the state’s bathroom law, prompting North Carolina and the U.S. Justice Department to file dueling lawsuits against one another.
“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” Lynch said in a May 13 statement announcing the joint directive.
Schools that fail to comply with the directive risk losing federal funding as well as a civil rights lawsuit.