Transgender Students Can Use Facilities that Match their Gender Identity Within the 3rd Circuit

This decision covers those living in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Virgin Islands.  The case, known as Joel Doe et al v Boyertown Area School District et al, is another school bathroom case. Boyertown is a school district in Berks County in southeastern Pennsylvania.  The following blog was written by the Women’s Law Project, a Pennsylvania-based public-interest law center focused on the rights of women and girls.  They wrote one of the amici briefs in this successful gender-identity rights case.

[On May 24, 2018], the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling that upheld a Pennsylvania school district’s policy that permits transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Court observers had the opportunity to witness a rare spectacle. Rather than take weeks or months to issue an opinion after arguments, the three-judge panel convened for a less than 30 minutes before ruling in favor of Boyertown Area School District’s policy and by extension, the rights of transgender students.

The plaintiffs, four cisgender students who claimed they were harassed by the mere presence of a transgender person in the locker room or restroom, were represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom. The School District defended the suit, and the Pennsylvania Youth Congress Foundation, a coalition of LGBTQ youth leaders and youth organizations, intervened in the lawsuit. They were represented by the ACLU and ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Attorneys at the Women’s Law Project and co-counsel at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the Boyertown policy that argues that the presence of transgender students in facilities corresponding to their gender identity does not violate Title IX. Rather, Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use those facilities.

Twelve organizations signed on to the brief, including the American Association of University Women, California Women’s Law Center, Champion Women, Equal Rights Advocates, Gender Justice, Legal Aid at Work, Legal Voice, National Women’s Law Center, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Southwest Women’s Law Center, and Women’s Law Center of Maryland.

“This ruling is a huge victory for the rights of transgender students,” says WLP staff attorney Amal Bass, who co-authored the amicus brief with staff attorney Christine Castro and managing attorney Terry L. Fromson. “The momentum is undeniable, and the Third Circuit panel sent an important message today by issuing its decision unanimously and immediately.”

You can read or download our brief here.

For all of the documents, see here.

Background

Boyertown School District instituted a policy to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that reflect their gender identity, rather than the sex identified on their birth certificates.

Four anonymous students represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal advocacy group often focused on restricting the rights of LGBTQ people, challenged the policy, arguing that the presence of transgender student constituted sexual harassment under Title IX and violated the Constitution.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law designed to eliminate sex discrimination in schools and education programs.

Our Argument

Our brief highlights the fact that the courts have previously ruled that a person’s reproductive anatomy is not, in all instances, an accurate signifier of a person’s sex. For transgender people, a person’s gender identity is the most accurate determinant of their sex. Thus, Title IX does not provide a legal basis for Appellant-students to deny transgender students equal access to an education.

To the contrary, Title IX requires the school district continue the current policy of enabling transgender students to use facilities matching their gender identity because the alternative—a policy that segregates students only by biology-based, assigned sex—would discriminate against transgender students by denying them use of facilities in accordance with their gender identity.

Indeed, when plaintiff’s counsel advised the judges that he was merely asking for a “return to the status quo,” meaning, a reversal of the recently enacted policy, Circuit Judge Theodore McKee responded by bringing up landmark segregation case Brown v. Board of Education, pointing out that changes are made when there is a problem with the status quo.

“The Momentum is Undeniable”

This victory comes on the heels of another big win for transgender rights in the United States. On Tuesday May 22, a federal court ruled against a Virginia school district, holding that federal law protects a transgender student who sought to use the boys’ bathroom at his school. A federal appeals court based in Chicago issued a similar ruling in a different challenge in May 2017.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

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via Victory: Third Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Rights of Transgender Students — WLP Blog

Bathroom Police Head to South Carolina

Nel's New Day

Imagine wanting to be picked for vice-president and finding yourself faced with a discriminatory hate law and businesses oppose? That’s Nikki Haley’s problem in South Carolina as the legislature heads to pass a “bathroom police” law.  A legislator introduced the bill on the pretense of “safety” despite the fact that no problems have existed in any of the places where transgender people can legally use the facilities of their gender identities instead of their birth genitals.

Has no one tried to figure out how to enforce the law? Will every public bathroom be forced to be staffed with a security guard who demands birth certificates and visual inspections of genitals before everyone is allowed to go into the restrooms? Would any violation cause a fine? Or jail time? Or both? Imagine the headlines: bathroom sting catches local resident in sting—perp gets six months for peeing.

Haley has good reason to…

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Corbett’s at It Again

This time, Corbett is attacking LGBT couples

“Just Close Your Eyes”

Last year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly was considering passage of a transvaginal ultrasound bill to force women to have an unnecessary ultrasound in advance of going to an abortion clinic if they want to terminate their pregnancy. This bill would have required pregnant women to have the intrusive vaginal ultrasound with a video screen pointed at then and then would have required them to carry that report to the clinic the next day along with a signed form indicating that they had the procedure done.  This report would also have to be placed in their medical record despite the fact that this procedure was not medically necessary.

When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was asked if this was a bill that burdened women, he said that the women who didn’t want the procedure could “Just close their eyes.”

Here’s a clip of that comment (the commentary and the comment start at 02:39 minutes into this video):

This time he says, “I think a much better analogy would have been  brother and sister…”

Now this week, he’s attacking loving gay couples who want to marry just like their heterosexual friends do.  On Friday he responded to another reporter’s question.  He appeared on a Harrisburg TV station program called “Ask the Governor.”  The reporter asked him to comment on the legal argument that his lawyers are proceeding with in a case to stop Montgomery County’s Register of Wills from issuing marriage licenses to gays and lesbians who want to get married in Pennsylvania.

The legal brief compares same-sex marriage to allowing 12-year old children to get married.  His response, just a bit longer than the “Just close your eyes” comment from last year, is just as offensive.  The reporter said to him, “comparing gay marriage to the union of 12-year olds … you called inappropriate.” Corbett responded:

“It was an inappropriate analogy. I think a much better analogy would have been  brother and sister, don’t you? ”

Here’s a clip of this comment:

He later, as with last year’s comment, apologized, saying this time that it’s just a “legal” argument since marrying a 12-year old or having an incestuous marriage, or marrying a person of the same-sex are all illegal.

This is the guy who thinks he represents the Commonwealth?!!?  Women as well as men? I don’t think so! All gays and lesbian couples as well as any heterosexual couple that wants to get married?!!? I don’t think so!

Inappropriate, Offensive, Insensitive, and Hateful

Both of these statements are offensive, insensitive, and hateful.  And, yes just as Corbett later stated they are both inappropriate.  Yet he continues to attack – women, gays, immigrants, etc.  For a sampling of these attacks by Governor Corbett (as well by the Pennsylvania legislature), check out my blog posting earlier this entitled “War on Women in PA: At Least a 20-Year Happening.”

The apologies are not enough.  Corbett has to go.  He needs to be a 1-term Governor in Pennsylvania – something that hasn’t happened since the PA Constitution was amended in 1968 to allow a Governor to succeed himself (or herself, which might change if we ever elect a female governor) with a second term.

The Alternatives (So Far)

We know that Tom Corbett will be the Republican candidate for PA Governor in 2014.  We don’t know who the Democratic (or any other party) candidate will be on the November ballot.  Right now there are at least eight Democrats running: John Hanger, Jo Ellen Litz, Rob McCord, Katy McGinty, Max Myers, Ed Pawlowski, Allyson Schwartz, and Tom Wolf have officially announced and Rep. H. Scott Conklin, Senator Mike Stack, and former Auditor General Jack Wagner are considering a run. We need information on these alternatives.

So I started looking for blogs or commentary on alternatives to Tom Corbett.  So far, there is only one that is not party-based that I could find.  It is written by Cindy Purvis, Treasurer of Healthcare for All PA.  Her blog is titled “Race for PA Governor” and focuses on single-payer healthcare reform.  So check out her blog.

After the fall elections, there should be more websites up that can provide more complete information on the stances of candidates across a wide spectrum of issues, including women’s rights, reproductive justice, marriage equality, and other LGBTQ issues.  One of the best, in my opinion is Project Vote Smart.  Right now there is nothing on any race being held in 2014, but check back later.

Meanwhile, you can let your outrage be known. Contact Tom Corbett by email or phone at 717-787-2500.  Tell him that his wars on women and the LGBT community must stop.  Let him hear your outrage.  Maybe he might reconsider some of his views and actions towards the citizens of Pennsylvania.  I doubt it, but it doesn’t hurt to try.