- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The Obama administration’s recent directive that transgender students be allowed to use facilities that match their gender identity puts kids’ safety at risk, said protesters at Utah’s Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

About a dozen people came together to push back against the federal guidance, with some calling the directive unconstitutional and a prime example of federal overreach.

“Children need guidelines, they need rules, they need order,” said Janice Graham, one of the founders of the religious group Standard of Liberty, and a protest organizer. “I’d like to see Obama go into the women’s bathroom if signs don’t mean anything.”

The Obama administration’s guidance is not legally binding, but schools that refuse to comply could be hit with civil rights lawsuits from the government and could have their federal aid cut.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, said that the directive is a key example of the president using a one-size-fits-all mandate, when the issue should be handled by states and individual schools.

Davis County resident Holly Moos said her kids already try to avoid school bathrooms because of the mischievous things that go on in them, such as drug deals. She says the directive would make them even more uncomfortable.

The governor’s office in Utah has received about 600 calls, emails and letters on the issue, with about half of them in favor of the directive.

Pleasant Grove resident Drew Armstrong said he supports the directive’s message, saying it could help his 14-year-old transgender son Tyler when he enters 9th grade next year and wants to use the men’s bathroom.

“The reason that they want to walk into the bathroom that they look like is not because they feel like they belong there,” Armstrong said. “It’s because they want to fit in as the gender that they are.”

Utah’s interim Superintendent Sydnee Dickson sent a letter Monday to all district superintendents and charter school directors in the state saying the state’s board of education isn’t providing school districts with guidance on the mandate and doesn’t expect them to change their current practices.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said he is working on legislation for next year that would allow local school districts to make their own decision as to whether or not they want to adhere to the Obama administration’s directive. Each school is different, so the decision should be made at a local level, Ray said.

The Mormon church, meanwhile, isn’t directly supporting or opposing the directive and instead calling on public officials to create rules and laws that balance safety, privacy and dignity for all, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement Tuesday. “We believe reasonable solutions can usually be found when people of goodwill come together to find answers,” Hawkins said


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