By Heide Brandes
OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) – Republican state lawmakers in Oklahoma have introduced a resolution urging the state’s congressional delegation to start an effort to impeach President Barack Obama over a White House recommendation that schools accommodate transgender students.
The Obama administration told U.S. public schools last week that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice. The recommendation upset Republicans and raised the likelihood of fights over federal funding and legal authority.
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 Obama, 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.
Legal experts told local media the impeachment call is on shaky ground since the recommendation offered non-binding guidance and did not have the force of law.
Lawmakers in the socially conservative state took up another measure on 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 and referred to a Senate committee on Friday, 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.
Impeachment advocates say Obama overstepped his constitutional authority.
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 state lawmakers approved a bill that would make abortions a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for doctors who perform them.
Governor Mary Fallin, an anti-abortion Republican, vetoed the bill because it would not withstand a criminal constitutional legal challenge, her office said.
(Reporting by Heide Brandes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Marguerita Choy)