Appeals Court Upholds Indiana Trans Students’ Access to Appropriate Facilities

Author: Trudy Ring

A federal appeals court this week upheld a lower court’s orders allowing transgender youth in Indiana to use the school restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana last year issued preliminary injunctions in lawsuits against two Indiana school districts, the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville and the Vigo County Schools, blocking their anti-trans policies while the suits are heard and letting trans students use the appropriate facilities. The districts appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which consolidated the cases for the purpose of the appeal. The circuit covers Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

The Seventh Circuit upheld the injunctions in a ruling issued Tuesday. The injunctions were “narrowly tailored and fact-bound,” Judge Diane Wood wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the court. “We affirm their orders,” she continued.

The judges agreed with the district court that the trans students who sued were likely to prove, when the case goes to trial, that they had suffered illegal discrimination. They also agreed that the students were likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctions and that the injunctions were in the public interest.

The ruling cited a decision the Seventh Circuit issued in 2017 in trans boy Ash Whitaker’s case against his school district in Kenosha, Wis., upholding a lower court’s injunction against the district’s trans-exclusionary restroom policy. Whitaker and the district eventually reached a settlement.

“Litigation over transgender rights is occurring all over the country, and we assume that at some point the Supreme Court will step in with more guidance than it has furnished so far,” Wood wrote. “Until then, we will stay the course and follow Whitaker.

The Martinsville suit was brought by a trans boy identified as A.C., and the suit in Vigo County by twin trans boys identified as B.E. and S.E. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the LGBT Project of Indiana Legal Services.

“Students who are denied access to the appropriate facilities are caused both serious emotional and physical harm as they are denied recognition of who they are. They will often avoid using the restroom altogether while in school,” ACLU of Indiana attorney Kenneth Falk said in a press release. “Schools should be a safe place for kids, and the refusal to allow a student to use the correct facilities can be extremely damaging.”

“Along with the ACLU, we celebrate the Court of Appeals’ decision that affirms that school officials must treat these students as the boys they are,” added Megan Stuart, Indiana Legal Services director of advocacy and director of the LGBT Project. “Indiana Legal Services is proud of our work helping LGBTQ+ Hoosiers whose rights have been violated and in expanding the law to ensure LGBTQ+ people can live safe, long lives.”

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring

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