3 big transgender rights cases are going to court this week, and they could set important legal precedent

  • Three big cases on questions of transgender rights are being argued in Montana, Oregon, and Pennsylvania this week.
  • They revolve around the rights of transgender people to use gender-segregated public facilities of their choice.
  • A case being heard today in federal appeals court could set legal precedent for other cases.

Courts in three states will hear cases this week surrounding whether people have a legal right to use gender-segregated public facilities like bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity, as opposed to the biological sex they were assigned at birth.

Transgender rights has been a hot-button topic in the US in the past few years following North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill” and similar laws in other states. School districts around the country have grappled with whether or not to allow students to use the facilities that don’t match their sex assigned at birth.

Montana

On Monday, a district court judge heard arguments in Hobaugh vs. Montana. The Montana American Civil Liberties Union is representing eight plaintiffs in challenging a proposed state-wide ballot initiative that would require Montanans to use public facilities, including locker rooms and bathrooms, that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate.

The ACLU hopes the court will rule against the legality of the initiative before it can appear on the ballot in November. They argue the proposal would infringe on the privacy and dignity of trans and gender non-conforming Montanans, and would be virtually un-enforceable. Voters in Alaska rejected a similar proposal last month.

Oregon

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Oregon challenges the policy of the Dallas School District to allow students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that best fit their gender identity, regardless of their sex.

The suit, brought by a group of school parents, argues the transgender-inclusive policy is illegal because Title IX, which protects students from sex discrimination, only applies to discrimination based on biological sex, not cases where a student’s gender identity differs from biological sex.

Pennsylvania

The third case, Doe v. Boyertown, will be heard today in the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia. Like the suit in Oregon, plaintiffs are mounting a challenge to Pennsylvania’s Boyertown Area School District, which also permits students to use gender-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.

“Such accommodation crosses a statutory and constitutional line when the District authorizes entry of one sex into the other sex’s privacy facilities,” the complaint alleges.

While cases on transgender issues and sex-segregated facilities have been argued in federal court before, Doe v. Boyertown is the first time a suit filed by non-transgender plantiffs challenging an existing transgender-inclusive school policy has reached a federal appeals court. This means the case could set important precedent for future suits challenging the legality of such policies. The US Supreme Court has so far declined to hear cases surrounding access to gender-segregated facilities.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Doe v. Boyertown is the first time a case on transgender issues and sex-segregated facilities has reached a federal appeals court. It is instead the first time a suit challenging transgender-inclusive policies has reached a federal appeals court.

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