Sunday, August 23, 2020

11th Circuit Invalidates School's Rule On Transgender Bathroom Assignments

 In Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, Florida, (11th Cir., Aug. 7, 2020), the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by a 2-1 vote held that a Florida high school's policy that prevented a transgender male from using the boy's bathroom violates the Equal Protection Clause as well as Title IX. The court said in part:

[W]e assume the government may promote its interest in protecting privacy by maintaining separate bathrooms for boys and girls or men and women. Mr. Adams, for his part, does not question the ubiquitous societal practice of separate bathrooms for men and women. Instead, Mr. Adams argues the School Board’s bathroom policy singles him out for differential treatment on the basis of his gender nonconformity and without furthering student privacy whatsoever. The record before us has persuaded us to his view.

The majority noted that the school relies on the student's sex designation on school enrollment forms, and not on their birth certificates. The majority went on:

 A public school may not punish its students for gender nonconformity. Neither may a public school harm transgender students by establishing arbitrary, separate rules for their restroom use. The evidence at trial confirms that Mr. Adams suffered both these indignities.

Chief Judge Pryor dissented, saying in part:

By failing to address head-on the lawfulness of sex-separated bathrooms in schools, the majority recasts the school policy as classifying students on the basis of transgender status. And based on this recasting, it reaches the remarkable conclusion that schoolchildren have no sex-specific privacy interests when using the bathroom. The majority opinion purports to allow only plaintiff Drew Adams, a female who identifies as a male, to use the boys’ bathroom, but the logic of this decision would require all schoolchildren to use sex-neutral bathrooms.

Lambda Legal issued a press release announcing the decision.