Tennessee is one of at least 10 states suing the federal government over its new guidance on transgender students.
The state's top lawyer says the Obama administration is effectively rewriting federal law and taking away states' rights, without going through Congress.
Texas is the lead plaintiff, and the suit was filed Wednesday with a federal court in Wichita Falls, Texas. A school district near that city is also a plaintiff, as are Alabama, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and the Arizona Department of Education.
They accuse the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education of conspiring "to turn workplaces and educational settings … into laboratories for a massive social experiment." They add the government is trying to rewrite federal nondiscrimination laws by "administrative fiat."
At issue is officials' recent guidance to schools on how to handle requests for accommodation from transgender students.
The Obama administration contends that Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in educational institutions, applies to gender identity. That means schools can't require transgender students to use unisex facilities or the ones that match their birth sex.
But Republicans in Tennessee have been pushing state Attorney General Herbert Slatery to resist the administration.
And in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Slatery contends the Obama administration's actions violate the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He also says decisions about how to accommodate transgender students ought to be left to state and local authorities.
Slatery says Tennessee joined in the suit to protect its rights against federal encroachment.
"Our office has consistently opposed efforts like this to take away states' rights and exclude the people's representatives from making these decisions. ... As the complaint describes, it is a social experiment implemented by federal departments denying basic privacy rights and placing the burden largely on our children, not adults. Sitting on the sidelines on this issue was not an option."
Conservatives applauded the move. The Family Action Council of Tennessee had been pushing for a special legislative session to compel Slatery to challenge the government's directive in court. It issued a statement saying the need for that had been abated.