WASHINGTON — In the middle of a legal fight with North Carolina over transgender rights, the Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping decree telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.
The letter to school districts that will go out Friday describing what they should do to ensure that none of their students are discriminated against, signed by officials of the Justice Department and Department of Education, does not have the force of law. But it contains an implicit threat: Schools that do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law could face lawsuits or a loss of federal aid.
The move is certain to draw fresh criticism, particularly from Republicans, that the federal government is wading into local matters and imposing its own values on communities across the country that may not agree. It represents the latest example of the Obama administration using a combination of policies, lawsuits and public statements to change the civil rights landscape for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.