Executive orders a common problem

Published 8:14 pm Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Obama administration’s decree that all public schools must allow transgender students to use the bathroom of his/her choice isn’t surprising.

Sure, it’s an abuse of executive power. But this is not the first time a president — Democrat or Republican — has overstepped his bounds. History is full of examples. Executive orders and directives are frequently used to circumvent the other two branches of government.

President Abraham Lincoln is credited with issuing the first directive called an “executive order” in 1862.

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President Obama has been regularly criticized for “acting like a king” when it comes to executive orders, but most presidents have issued their share.

Truman issued 113 executive orders per year; Clinton issued 45 by comparison. The first Bush issued 41 orders per year, while Bush II issued 36 per year.

Simply comparing the number per year doesn’t account for the impact those orders had. Some have been more tyrannical than others.

FDR issued an executive order that forcibly transferred Japanese-Americans and German-Americans to internment camps during World War II, according to Forbes. Truman issued an order to seize and nationalize all steel mills in America during a labor strike in 1952, Forbes reported.

These are clearly abuses of power that violated the rights of others.

Legal scholars have defended executive orders on a couple ambiguous passages in the Constitution. One states that the executive branch “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

The courts have overturned some executive orders, and Obama’s most recent directive on transgender rights will certainly be challenged in the courts. The administration’s approach is that sex discrimination laws apply to transgender people and bathrooms. The courts have yet to make that determination.

On the bathroom issue, local school districts will likely have to do as Obama has directed as most can’t afford to lose federal funding.

Though Gov. Phil Bryant wrote that the Mississippi Department of Education should disregard the directive, MDE released a statement saying it will adhere to it.

That’s likely a scary proposition for many. It would be for me. I can’t imagine sending my daughter to a school where biologically male students are allowed to share a bathroom with her.

I won’t pretend to understand the confusion and pain that a person who struggles to identify with his/her biological gender endures. I wonder sometimes if revolting against biological gender is simply the ultimate form of rebellion against a creator. If so, it’s no different than the myriad other ways we all rebel.  Humans are fiercely independent, to the point of trying to control something as fundamental as gender.

Thankfully, my children are homeschooled, and we won’t have to deal with this issue on a day-to-day basis. But most of Lincoln County will. Some may choose to remove their children from public schools, but many others won’t have that choice.

The courts may eventually overturn this decision but until then, parents can expect their children’s schools to follow the directive. By tying funding to the decree, Obama has ensured that will happen. It’s an abuse of power for sure, but he’s only keeping a disappointing tradition alive.

Luke Horton is the publisher of The Daily Leader.