The White House on Friday blasted Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) for his criticism of President Obama’s new transgender bathroom guidance to public schools.
“Well, I think this does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to a statewide office,” press secretary Josh Earnest said of Patrick.
Patrick hosted a conservative talk radio show in Houston before running for lieutenant governor.
The debate over the Obama administration’s directive quickly intensified Friday, foreshadowing a fight over LGBT rights that could play a major role in the 2016 elections.
Many Republicans are pushing back on the measure. Patrick called the guidelines an example of executive overreach that interferes with family values.
"He issued a policy that does nothing to improve our schools, nothing to improve math and reading scores," Patrick said during an interview on CNN. "This is about social engineering that's going to be totally disruptive to our school day. Parents are not going to accept it."
Obama issued a guidance to all U.S. public schools saying that transgender students should be allowed to use restrooms that match their gender identity, not the sex listed on their birth certificate.
Earnest defended the measure, saying it’s “not an enforcement action” and came at the request of school systems seeking guidance about how to treat transgender students.
Though the guidance doesn't carry the force of law, it comes with a threat of lawsuits or loss of federal funding for schools that do not comply.
Patrick said stripping federal funding would hurt poor Texas students because the bulk of education aid to Texas pays for their free or reduced-price lunch options.
Earnest hit back at other GOP arguments against the guidance, such as that it could allow sexual predators into public restrooms.
“They can’t rely on political arguments that are framed as a solution that nobody can prove exists,” he said of school administrators.
“They actually have to deal with the responsibility they have to promote an inclusive, respectful environment for their students.”