Eleven states, led by Texas, are suing the federal government over a directive issued by President Barack Obama telling schools to “allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identities,” Reuters reports.
Will North Dakota join those states?
That’s up to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who also happens to be in the middle of a heated gubernatorial primary battle with Fargo businessman Doug Burgum.
I reached out to Stenehjem campaign manager Nate Martindale about the lawsuit. “Wayne’s office is considering their options and preparing a response,” he told me.
Stenehjem has spoken out against the directive previously. “I will do what I need to do to protect the state of North Dakota from federal overreach based on law that doesn’t exist,” he said earlier this month.
In April, before President Obama announced his directive, I asked the gubernatorial candidates about their position on the transgender bathroom issue generally. “Ultimately, I believe it is up to individual businesses and local government to decide what is right for their situation and circumstances and I will oppose any legislation that requires or mandates choice in public accommodates for transgender individuals,” Stenehjem told me then.
Burgum said essentially the same thing. “I believe that the best government happens closest to the people,” he said. “As governor, I will fight to empower local jurisdictions to make these decisions locally.”
UPDATE: Burgum has released a statement criticizing Stenehjem for not immediately joining the lawsuit:
“It’s disappointing that, despite his recent campaign rhetoric, our current Attorney General did not take the time to join his Republican colleagues in fighting this egregious example of federal overreach. North Dakotans know that these decisions should be made at the local level, not by Washington, and our elected officials have an obligation to stand up for our rights as a state.”