Supreme Court lets ruling affirming trans student rights to stand

Aidan DeStefano. ACLU photo.

All Aidan DeStefano and other transgender students at Boyertown Area High School in Pennsylvania wanted was to use the restroom conforming to their gender identity. The school district agreed with them and put in place a policy that allowed trans students like DeStefano, a transgender male, to use their preferred bathroom.

But some of the other students at Boyertown objected to the policy, saying it violated their right to privacy. They filed a lawsuit to force the school district to abandon its policy.

The Third District Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the school district’s transgender affirming policy. The plaintiffs appealed that decision to the United States Supreme Court, in Joel Doe v. Boyertown Area School.

Today, in a victory for transgender students, the high court refused to hear the case, leaving the Third Circuit’s ruling in place.

Transgender student rights have frequently been challenged by parents at schools with trans affirming policies. The challenges are frequently unsuccessful. In other cases, where the school district passed anti-trans policies, lawsuits against those policies are often successful. The Trump administration has been uniformly hostile to transgender rights.

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When the case was filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, part of DeStefano’s statement to the court said, “I want to be part of this lawsuit because for me there is something very personal at stake.  I have worked very hard to bring my life into alignment and I cannot stand aside while my dignity and ability to fully participate in school life are under attack.  If the Plaintiff prevails and I can no longer use the facilities that match my gender, I will be devastated.”

Today, he reacted to the high court’s decision in his favor, saying “By the time I graduated high school, I was using the boys’ bathroom and participating on the boys’ cross country team. I felt like I belonged and had the confidence I needed to continue with my education. I’m glad the Supreme Court is allowing schools like mine to continue supporting transgender students.”

The ACLU represented DeStefano in opposing the case brought by other students. “It’s important that trans students are given the opportunity to defend themselves against these shameful attempts to isolate and stigmatize them,” said Leslie Cooper, senior staff attorney at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. “Schools can and should provide extra privacy protections or private restroom or changing areas for any student who requests it. But no student has a right to demand that transgender students be segregated from their peers.”

Towleroad reported, “Said Ria Tabacco Mar, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project: ‘This is an enormous victory for transgender students across the country. Boyertown’s schools chose to be inclusive and welcoming of transgender students in 2016, a decision the courts have affirmed again and again. This lawsuit sought to reverse that hard-won progress by excluding transgender students from school facilities that other students use.’

“’That would have increased the stigma and discrimination that transgender students already face. Thankfully, today’s announcement allows schools to move forward with policies that support transgender students. But our work is far from over. We will continue to defend the transgender community from attacks in the courts, the legislatures, and the White House.’”

The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a virulently anti-LGBTQ organization that the Southern Policy Law Center (SPLC) has designated a hate group. Among its efforts are attempts to criminalize homosexuality in the US and abroad, claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society and work to develop “religious liberty” legislation and case law that will allow the denial of goods and services to LGBTQ people on the basis of religion, according to the SPLC.

The refusal to hear Joel Doe v. Boyertown School by the Supreme Court, letting the 3rd Circuit's ruling stand, is the latest in a series of court decisions affirming transgender rights.

Copyright The Gayly – May 28, 2019 @ 11:50 a.m. CDT.