The Letcher County Fiscal Court is getting involved in the national debate over whether transgender citizens should be allowed to use bathroom facilities that match their gender identities.
The fiscal court — the county’s legislative body — voted this week to direct Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton to determine whether it can formally declare that Letcher County’s government will not comply with any law or regulation that opens public restrooms to transgendered people.
The action came at the end of the court’s May meeting at the request of District One Magistrate Bobby Howard, whose district includes most of the City of Whitesburg. Howard’s request came one week after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it had filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn North Carolina’s controversial new law restricting transgender bathroom access. The Justice Department also warned last week that any similar measures elsewhere in the country could also face challenges on grounds they violate federal nondiscrimination rules.
Howard told the court Monday night that many of his constituents are outraged by the federal government’s lawsuit against North Carolina as well as a directive by President Barack Obama’s administration that public schools must allow students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.
Howard insisted the fiscal court initiate an ordinance stating that Letcher County will not comply with any law that opens public restrooms to transgendered people. As of Tuesday night, the state of Kentucky had passed no law concerning transgender bathroom use.
When Howard first brought up the issue of transgender bathrooms on Monday night, Letcher Judge/ Executive Jim Ward laughed and told Howard he wasn’t certain what he was talking about. But after Howard’s request was clarified, Ward said he also does not approve of mixed bathrooms and was joined in his view by the rest of the court.
Hatton thinks the court could adopt a resolution stating its opposition to the Justice Department’s lawsuit and Obama’s directive for public schools. He said he would examine the law and make a recommendation at the court’s next meeting.
A transgender man is a person who was born female but identifies as a man. Likewise, the sex of a transgender woman was determined to be male at birth but the gender identity is that of a woman.
The North Carolina law was passed in response to a vote taken in February in which the Charlotte City Council voted to expand protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to gay, lesbian, and transgender customers at city businesses and buildings. The Charlotte ordinance included a clause allowing people to choose restrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said his office was looking into options to ensure the issue is decided locally.
Last year, Kentucky lawmakers considered a bill to ban transgender students from choosing which bathroom to use at public schools.
The bill would not have forced transgender students to use the bathroom of their biological gender. But it would have required them to use a faculty bathroom or separate bathroom. It passed the Senate but died in the House. The issue did not surface this year.
Many bills popping up in state legislatures to ban transgender bathroom use were crafted by the Liberty Counsel, a law firm founded by Mat Staver. It’s the same law firm that represented Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court issued a ruling last year effectively legalizing gay marriage nationwide.
Staver said he’s working to craft a federal lawsuit to challenge the new directive.