August 22, 2016
“We will continue to file lawsuits representing transgender students and litigate them to the fullest extent of the law.”
(Fort Worth, TX – August 22, 2016) – A U.S. District Court judge today issued a preliminary injunction against the federal government’s guidance to public school districts regarding their legal responsibility to allow transgender students to use the same restrooms as other students. The ruling came in the multi-state lawsuit, Texas v. United States.
Five civil rights organizations who had submitted a joint amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief in the lawsuit – Lambda Legal, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Texas; National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR); Transgender Law Center; and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) – issued the following statement in response to U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling:
“A ruling by a single judge in one circuit cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination. This unfortunate and premature ruling may, however, confuse school districts that are simply trying to support their students, including their transgender students. So let us make it clear to those districts: your obligations under the law have not changed, and you are still not only allowed but required to treat transgender students fairly. The scope of this injunction has no effect on the ability of other courts or lawyers representing transgender people to continue to rely on the federal government’s interpretations of Title IX or on prior decisions that have reached similar conclusions about the scope of federal sex discrimination laws.
“The court’s misguided decision targets a small, vulnerable group of young people – transgender elementary and high school students – for potential continued harassment, stigma and abuse.”
Although the court failed to consider the interests of the very students the federal laws were intended to protect, the five civil rights organizations who advocated on their behalf avowed, “We will continue to file lawsuits representing transgender students and litigate them to the fullest extent of the law—regardless of what happens with this particular federal guidance.”
Texas v. United States was brought by Texas and 10 other states — subsequently joined by two additional states — against the United States, the Departments of Justice, Education and Labor and numerous federal officials. The plaintiffs include the states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky (through its governor), Louisiana, Mississippi (through its governor), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, and the Arizona Department of Education, the Heber-Overgaard Unified School District in Arizona, Harrold Independent School District in Texas, and Maine Governor Paul LePage. Several of these plaintiffs lie in the Fourth, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits, which had issued binding appellate decisions consistent with the guidance of the federal agencies.
The lawsuit targets various federal letters, guides, memos, and statements regarding Title IX of the Education Amendments that conclude that federal bans on sex discrimination encompass gender identity discrimination, and that transgender individuals should be allowed to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity. The lawsuit claims that that guidance is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution. A copycat lawsuit was filed recently by the state of Nebraska, joined by Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan (through its attorney general), Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
The court’s order can be read here.
The joint amicus brief filed by the five civil rights organizations can be read here.