Oklahoma lawmakers to consider resolution urging Obama impeachment over bathroom policy

by Reuters
Friday, 20 May 2016 22:52 GMT

(Corrects headline and first paragraph to make clear state lawmakers have introduced a resolution that would urge Obama's impeachment, not a measure seeking to impeach Obama directly; Reorders paragraphs 2-5 to make clearer; In paragraph 3, makes clear that impeachment resolution has not been voted on. In paragraph 5, corrects to make clear that bill about allowing students to claim religious right to segregated facilities is separate from resolution.)

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY, May 20 (Reuters) - Oklahoma's Republican-dominated legislature has introduced a resolution calling on the state's congressional delegation to seek articles of impeachment against President Barack Obama over his administration's recommendations on accommodating transgender students, saying he overstepped his constitutional authority.

The Obama administration told U.S. public schools last week that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice, upsetting Republicans and raising the likelihood of fights over federal funding and legal authority.

In addition to Obama, the Oklahoma resolution introduced on Thursday night calls on the state's members of the U.S. House of Representatives to file articles of impeachment against the U.S. attorney general, the U.S. secretary of education and others over the policy. A vote has not yet been scheduled on the resolution.

The impeachment call seems to be on shaky ground since the letter offered non-binding guidance and did not have the force of law, legal experts told local media.

Lawmakers in the socially conservative state were also expected to take up another measure as early as Friday that would allow students to claim a religious right to have separate but equal bathrooms and changing facilities to segregate them from transgender students.

That bill, introduced on Thursday night, could force schools into costly construction, which would be difficult for them to complete after lawmakers significantly cut education funding to plug a $1.3 billion state budget shortfall.

State Representative John Bennett, a Republican, said in a statement the White House policy was "biblically wrong," and a violation of state sovereignty.

The Oklahoma bill would allow for segregation at school restrooms, athletic changing facilities and showers if a request is made to accommodate religious beliefs.

It also allows the attorney general to file lawsuits to implement the changes.

Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, an LGBT advocacy group said the measure promoted fear-mongering and was out of place

"In a time when our state is facing an unprecedented economic crisis, our lawmakers should be focused on righting the ship rather than stigmatizing transgender youth," he said in a statement.

The measure was introduced just hours after lawmakers in the budget-challenged state set itself up for a bruising legal fight after approving a bill that would make abortions a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for doctors who perform them.

Abortion rights groups have promised a court battle if Governor Mary Fallin, a anti-abortion Republican, approves the measure.

(Reporting by Heide Brandes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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