Obama Administration to Give Schools Guidance on Transgender Bathroom Use

Image: A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham, North Carolina
A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. Jonathan Drake / Reuters

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By Kristin Donnelly and Hasani Gittens
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The Obama administration is stepping up the fight for transgender bathroom equality.

The federal government will tell public schools across the country on Friday morning that they should allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

The new guidance, which comes on the heels of a bathroom fight in North Carolina, will be sent to school districts by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice.

The letter, which was first reported by the New York Times, does not impose any new legal requirements, but officials say the guidance is meant to clarify school districts' obligations to provide students with nondiscriminatory environments.

And if schools are found to be discriminatory, they could lose out on Title IX funds.

On Monday, the Justice Department and North Carolina exchanged lawsuits over that state's new law on bathroom use by transgender people.

"This is about the dignity and respect that we accord our fellow citizens and the laws we have enacted as a country to protect them and to protect us," U.S. Attorney General Lynch said after the federal suit was filed.

The North Carolina lawsuit contends that "transgender status is not a protected class" under the law, and if the Justice Department believes it should be, the feds should ask Congress to change the law.

"The Obama administration is bypassing Congress by attempting to rewrite the law," Gov. Pat McCrory said during a briefing after their lawsuit was filed.

The Associated Press contributed.