A US court has delivered a “groundbreaking” decision in favour of a transgender student’s right to use the bathroom that aligns with his gender in a case that advocates say can help trans students across the country.
The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which presides over the US states Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, found that the Kenosha Unified School District couldn’t prevent 17-year-old student Ash Whitaker from using the men’s bathroom, and the district had failed to convince the court that the student doing so would “infringe on the privacy rights” of its students.
“The School District has not demonstrated that it will suffer any harm from having to comply with the district court’s preliminary injunction order,” Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote in the ruling.
“The harms identified by the School District are all speculative and based upon conjecture, whereas the harms to Ash are well-documented and supported by the record.”
The court’s three judges unanimously found Whitaker should be protected by existing anti-discrimination laws, and that the district’s anti-trans bathroom policy conflicted with the constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause.
“A policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender non-conformance, which in turn violates Title IX,” Judge Williams wrote.
“The School District argues that since it treats all boys and girls the same, it does not violate the Equal Protection Clause. This is untrue, rather, the School District treats transgender students like Ash, who fail to conform to the sex-based stereotypes associated with their assigned sex at birth, differently.”
National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling said in a statement: “This decision — another in a growing list of rulings affirming the constitutional rights of transgender people — helps Ash and tens of thousands of students like him get the same opportunity to learn as any other student.
“It recognizes that fully respecting and including transgender students like Ash Whitaker is legally and morally the right thing to do, and that discrimination against these young people because of who they are is cruel, wrong and illegal.”
The Transgender Law Centre represented Whitaker in the case and executive director Kris Hayashi said in a statement the ruling is groundbreaking and a “great victory” for US transgender students.
“The battleground may be bathrooms, but the real issue is fairness and transgender people’s ability to go to school, to work, and simply to exist in public spaces,” Hayashi said.
“This win makes that more possible for more people.”
(Photo via Transgender Law Centre)