PORTLAND, Ore. - The ACLU and the ACLU of Oregon argued against an appeal today in Parents for Privacy v. Dallas School District No. 2 at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of LGBTQ advocacy group Basic Rights Oregon. The lawsuit seeks to challenge policies that affirm the legal rights of transgender students in public schools in Dallas, Oregon.
Last July, U.S. District Court Judge Hernandez issued an opinion granting the motion to dismiss the case brought by the school district and BRO. In his ruling, the court found that the school’s practice of allowing a transgender student to use the same restrooms as other students consistent with his gender identity does not violate the rights of cisgender students or parents. The district court also found that prohibiting transgender students from using the same facilities as other students likely would amount to illegal discrimination.
Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, asked the panel of three judges to affirm the lower court’s ruling. “There is no constitutional right to exclude transgender boys from boys’ facilities or transgender girls from girls’ facilities.”
Arkles said numerous groups filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the rights of transgender students including transgender students and school administrators from around the country, the State of Oregon, the National Education Association, PFLAG, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Academy of Pediatrics, GLSEN, and the National Women's Law Center.
"Forcing trans kids to use separate spaces is discriminatory. We should know this by now,” said Joy Wilson, a Portland mother of a transgender 11-year-old girl. “School bathrooms are not for some students, they are for all students.”
Tyler Warner, a transgender high school student from Sutherlin, Oregon, who was the target of a copycat lawsuit, and his mother made the three-hour trip to Portland to watch the arguments. After the judges adjourned, he shared his story outside of the courthouse.
“I want every trans kid in Oregon to know that they have rights,” Warner said. “Being segregated into a single-user bathroom isn’t ok.”
Basic Rights Oregon intervened in the case on behalf of transgender students in the state. The group has been working in communities across Oregon to ensure transgender students receive fair treatment.
“We all realize that simply saying ‘Protect Trans Kids’ isn’t enough,” said Nancy Haque, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. “It takes the concerted effort of communities like Dallas and Sutherlin, fighting to ensure that transgender kids have access to the same services that every kid deserves.”
Claims similar to the ones being brought by the plaintiffs in this case have been rejected by other courts around the country. Courts have repeatedly concluded that federal civil rights laws protect transgender students against discrimination, including in the context of restroom and locker room use.
More information about the lawsuit, including case filings, can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/parents-privacy-v-dallas-school-district-no-2.
A recording of the arguments will be made available at https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/.