State v. United States, Civil Action No. 7:16-cv-00054-O

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
Writing for the CourtReed O'Connor, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Citation201 F.Supp.3d 810
Parties State of TEXAS et al., Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES of America et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 7:16-cv-00054-O
Decision Date21 August 2016

201 F.Supp.3d 810

State of TEXAS et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES of America et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. 7:16-cv-00054-O

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Wichita Falls Division.

Signed August 21, 2016


201 F.Supp.3d 815

Austin R. Nimocks, Office of the Texas Attorney General, Austin, TX, for Plaintiffs.

Benjamin Leon Berwick, US Department of Justice, Boston, MA, for Defendants.

PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION ORDER

Reed O'Connor, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Before the Court are Plaintiffs' Application for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 11), filed July 6, 2016; Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiffs' Application for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 40), filed July 27, 2016; and Plaintiffs' Reply (ECF No. 52), filed August 3, 2016. The Court held a preliminary injunction hearing on August 12, 2016, and counsel for the parties presented their arguments. See ECF No. 56.1

This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students' rights and that of personal privacy when using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school. The sensitivity to this matter is heightened because Defendants' actions apply to the youngest child attending school and continues for every year throughout each child's educational career. The resolution of this difficult policy issue is not, however, the subject of this Order. Instead, the Constitution assigns these policy choices to the appropriate elected and appointed officials, who must follow the proper legal procedure.

That being the case, the issues Plaintiffs present require this Court to first decide whether there is authority to hear this matter. If so, then the Court must determine whether Defendants failed to follow the proper legal procedures before issuing the Guidelines in dispute and, if they failed to do so, whether the Guidelines must be suspended until Congress acts or Defendants follow the proper legal procedure. For the following reasons, the Court concludes that jurisdiction is proper here and that Defendants failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act by: (1) foregoing the Administrative Procedure Act's notice and comment requirements; and (2) issuing directives which contradict the existing legislative and regulatory texts. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Motion should be and is hereby GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

The following factual recitation is taken from Plaintiffs' Application for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 11) unless stated otherwise. Plaintiffs are composed of 13 states and agencies represented by various state leaders, as well as Harrold Independent School District of Texas and Heber-Overgaard Unified School District of Arizona.2 They have sued the U.S. Departments of Education ("DOE"), Justice ("DOJ"), Labor ("DOL"), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), and various agency officials (collectively "Defendants"), challenging Defendants' assertions that Title VII and Title IX require that all persons must be

201 F.Supp.3d 816

afforded the opportunity to have access to restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities which match their gender identity rather than their biological sex.3 Plaintiffs claim that on May 13, 2016, Defendants wrote to schools across the country in a Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students (the "DOJ/DOE Letter") and told them that they must "immediately allow students to use the bathrooms, locker rooms and showers of the student's choosing, or risk losing Title IX-linked funding." Mot. Injunction 1, ECF No. 11. Plaintiffs also allege Defendants have asserted that employers who "refuse to permit employees to utilize the intimate areas of their choice face legal liability under Title VII." Id. Plaintiffs complain that Defendants' interpretation of the definition of "sex" in the various written directives (collectively "the Guidelines")4 as applied to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") is unlawful and has placed them in legal jeopardy.

Plaintiffs contend that when Title IX was signed into law, neither Congress nor agency regulators and third parties "believed that the law opened all bathrooms and other intimate facilities to members of both sexes." Mot. Injunction. 1, ECF No. 11. Instead, they argue one of Title IX's initial implementing regulations, 34 C.F.R. § 106.33 (" § 106.33" or " Section 106.33"), expressly authorized separate restrooms on the basis of sex. Section 106.33 provides: "A recipient may provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex, but such facilities provided for students of one sex shall be comparable to such facilities provided for students of the other sex." 34 C.F.R. § 106.33. Plaintiffs assert the term sex in the pertinent statutes and regulations means the biological differences between a male and female. Mot. Injunction 2, ECF No. 11. Plaintiffs state that Defendants' swift move to supplant the traditional, biological meaning of sex with a definition based on gender identity through the Guidelines, coupled with Defendants' actions to enforce these new agency policies through investigations and compliance reviews, causes Plaintiffs to suffer irreparable harm for which a preliminary injunction is needed. Id. at 3–8; Pls.' Reply 3–7, ECF No. 54.

201 F.Supp.3d 817

Defendants contend that the Guidelines and recent enforcement actions are designed to prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of gender identity and are "[c]onsistent with the nondiscrimination mandate of [Title IX]," and that "these guidance documents ... are merely expressions of the agencies' views as to what the law requires." Defs.' Resp. 2–4, ECF No. 40. Defendants also contend that the Guidelines "are not legally binding, and they expose [P]laintiffs to no new liability or legal requirements" because DOE "has issued documents of this nature for decades, across multiple administrations, in order to notify schools and other recipients of federal funds about how the agency interprets the law and how it views new and emerging issues." Id. at 4–5.5 Defendants also state that the "[g]uidance documents issued by [DOE] ‘do not create or confer any rights for or on any person and do not impose any requirements beyond those required under applicable law and regulations' " and these documents expressly state that they do not carry the force of law. Id. at 5 (citing Holder Memo 2, ECF No. 6-10, to clarify that "the best reading of Title VII's prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status," but the memo "is not intended to otherwise prescribe the course of litigation or defenses that should be raised in any particular employment discrimination case").

A. Title IX

Title IX, enacted in 1972, is the landmark legislation which prohibits discrimination among federal fund recipients by providing that no person "shall, on the basis of sex, ... be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." 20 U.S.C. § 1681. The legislative history shows Congress hailed Title IX as an indelible step forward for women's rights. Mot. Injunction at 2–4. After its passage, the DOE and its predecessor implemented a number of regulations which sought to enforce Title IX, chief among them, and at issue here, § 106.33. See G.G. ex rel . Grimm v. Gloucester Cty. Sch. Bd. , 822 F.3d 709, 721 (4th Cir.2016) (stating that the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare ("HEW") adopted its Title IX regulations in 1975 pursuant to 40 Fed. Reg. 24128 (June 4, 1975), and DOE implemented its regulations in 1980 pursuant to 45 Fed. Reg. 30802, 30955 (May 9, 1980) ). Section 106.33, as well as several other related regulations, permit educational institutions to separate students on the basis of sex, provided the separate accommodations are comparable.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. The Administrative Procedure Act (the "APA")

"The APA authorizes suit by ‘[a] person suffering legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute.’ " Norton v. S. Utah Wilderness All. , 542 U.S. 55, 61, 124 S.Ct. 2373, 159 L.Ed.2d 137 (2004) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 702 ). "Where no other statute provides a private right of action, the ‘agency action’ complained of must be ‘final agency action.’ " Id. at 61–62, 124 S.Ct. 2373 (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 704 ).6 In the

201 F.Supp.3d 818

Fifth Circuit, "final agency action" is a jurisdictional threshold, not a merits inquiry. Texas v. Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n , 827 F.3d 372, 380, No. 14–10949, 2016 WL 3524242 at *5 (5th Cir. June 27, 2016) (" EEOC "); see also Peoples Nat'l Bank v. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of the United States , 362 F.3d 333, 336 (5th Cir.2004) ("If there is no ‘final agency action,’ a federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction." (citing...

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    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas
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    ...to judicial review, rather than looking merely at the label attached to the action by the agency." (citing Texas v. United States , 201 F. Supp. 3d 810 (N.D. Tex. 2016) )).10 Indeed, "Abbott Laboratories is often considered the seminal case for describing what is necessary for final agency ......
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    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
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    ...to different EAP exemptions based on location. This Court is not alone in its decision. See Texas v. United States , No. 7:16–cv–54, 201 F.Supp.3d 810, 835–36, 2016 WL 4426495, at *17 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 21, 2016) (issuing a nationwide injunction to ban enforcement of a Department of Education ......
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    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • February 27, 2017
    ...of G.G. , as was the issuance of the 2017 Guidance, which also impacts the course of the litigation in Texas v. United States , 201 F.Supp.3d 810, 2016 WL 4426495 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 21, 2016). In that case, Texas and some other states sought and were granted an injunction stopping DOE enforcem......
  • Carcaño v. McCrory, 1:16cv236
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • August 26, 2016
    ...See G.G. , 136 S.Ct. at 2442. Thus, while other courts may reach contrary decisions, see Texas v. United States , No. 7:16cv54, 201 F.Supp.3d 810, 831–34, 2016 WL 4426495, at *14–15, (N.D.Tex. Aug. 21, 2016) (adopting the view advanced in Judge Niemeyer's dissenting opinion from G.G. ),22 a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • BNSF Ry. Co. v. Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n, Civil Action No. 4:18-cv-00311-O
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas
    • November 27, 2018
    ...to judicial review, rather than looking merely at the label attached to the action by the agency." (citing Texas v. United States , 201 F. Supp. 3d 810 (N.D. Tex. 2016) )).10 Indeed, "Abbott Laboratories is often considered the seminal case for describing what is necessary for final agency ......
  • Nevada v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, Civil Action No. 4:16–CV–00731
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • November 22, 2016
    ...to different EAP exemptions based on location. This Court is not alone in its decision. See Texas v. United States , No. 7:16–cv–54, 201 F.Supp.3d 810, 835–36, 2016 WL 4426495, at *17 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 21, 2016) (issuing a nationwide injunction to ban enforcement of a Department of Education ......
  • Evancho v. Pine-Richland Sch. Dist., Civil No. 2:16–01537
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • February 27, 2017
    ...of G.G. , as was the issuance of the 2017 Guidance, which also impacts the course of the litigation in Texas v. United States , 201 F.Supp.3d 810, 2016 WL 4426495 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 21, 2016). In that case, Texas and some other states sought and were granted an injunction stopping DOE enforcem......
  • Carcaño v. McCrory, 1:16cv236
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • August 26, 2016
    ...See G.G. , 136 S.Ct. at 2442. Thus, while other courts may reach contrary decisions, see Texas v. United States , No. 7:16cv54, 201 F.Supp.3d 810, 831–34, 2016 WL 4426495, at *14–15, (N.D.Tex. Aug. 21, 2016) (adopting the view advanced in Judge Niemeyer's dissenting opinion from G.G. ),22 a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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