Law would bar transgender youth from bathrooms, changing rooms at school
SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson and New York Attorney General Letitia James are leading a coalition of 21 attorneys general to file a brief seeking to block an Idaho law that categorically bars transgender students from using school facilities like bathrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
A seventh-grade transgender girl and the Boise High School Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), whose president is a transgender high school senior, challenged the law in federal court in Idaho in July. The law, Idaho Senate Bill 1100, also allows students to sue schools for $5,000 or more for each instance where they encounter a transgender student in a facility barred by the law.
“Allowing students to use bathrooms and changing rooms that correspond with their gender identity helps them feel accepted and does not pose a threat to anyone,” Ferguson said. “In Washington, where the rights of transgender students are protected, public schools report no instances of transgender students harassing others in bathrooms or locker rooms. In contrast, the evidence is overwhelming that prohibiting students from using facilities that correspond to their gender identity causes them very real physical, emotional and mental harm.”
The student, Rebecca Roe, and SAGA petitioned the court to block the law from going into effect while their lawsuit continues — a request that the federal district court denied. Roe and SAGA appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. While the Ninth Circuit has blocked the law from going into effect until their appeal is heard, it ultimately must decide whether to overturn the lower court’s decision, blocking the law for the entire duration of the case. Ferguson’s brief supports Roe’s and SAGA’s request to block the implementation of the law until the entire case is decided.
In the brief, the attorneys general argue that denying transgender girls and boys access to the same common restrooms that other girls and boys use is a violation of federal civil rights laws. They also argue that “ensuring transgender people have access to public facilities consistent with their gender identity — including access to common restrooms — benefits all, without compromising safety or privacy, or imposing significant costs.”
More than 1.6 million people in the U.S. identify as transgender, including approximately 300,000 youth between 13 and 17. At least 22 states and Washington, D.C., and more than 370 municipalities nationwide offer explicit protections against gender-identity discrimination in areas like education, housing, employment and more.
In Washington, for example, school districts are required to allow students to use the restroom that is consistent with their gender identity and must provide any student with access to an alternative restroom if they have a need or desire for increased privacy, whether they are transgender or not. This allows all students with privacy concerns the use of a separate restroom without stigmatizing other students.
States like Washington with laws barring discriminatory bathroom policies have reported no instances of transgender students harassing others in restrooms or locker rooms.
The brief cites several studies that show transgender youth experience discrimination, violence and harassment at much higher rates. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey — the largest survey of transgender people to date — 77% of transgender youth reported being harassed or attacked. More than half reported verbal harassment and nearly a quarter reported a physical attack. Approximately 13% — one in eight — reported being sexually assaulted.
A 2016 study found that transgender people who had been denied access to bathroom facilities were approximately 40% more likely to have attempted suicide than other transgender people.
The brief, led by Washington and New York, is joined by attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
Assistant Attorney General Neal Luna with the Attorney General’s Wing Luke Civil Rights Division is leading the case for Washington.
The Wing Luke Civil Rights Division works to protect the rights of all Washington residents by enforcing state and federal anti-discrimination laws. It is named for Wing Luke, who served as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Washington in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He went on to become the first person of color elected to the Seattle City Council and the first Asian American elected to public office in the Pacific Northwest.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.email@example.com
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