In the last hours of a year fraught with surreal arguments over trans students’ rights and the definition of a “woman,” the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that a Flordia school district can, with the blessing of the Constitution, legally separate the boys’ bathroom from the girls’ based on the biological sex of the students.
In a 7-4 decision, the court found that the St. Johns County School Board “did not discriminate against transgender students based on sex, or violate federal civil rights law by requiring transgender students to use gender-neutral bathrooms or bathrooms matching their biological sex,” Fox News reports.
Drew Adams, a biological female who identifies as a boy, sued the district in 2017 after being denied access to the boys’ bathroom.
We led a coalition of 21 AGs in filing an amicus brief supporting Drew Adams, a transgender student suing the St. Johns County School board for discrimination.
Drew has been denied the ability to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) March 1, 2019
One of roughly 16 students among the school’s 40,000 students who identify as transgender, Adams was told by school authorities to use either a gender-neutral bathroom or the one assigned to the girls after two students complained about Adams’ being in the boys’ room, the ruling revealed. Adams’ parents then petitioned the school for a change to its policy, despite, as the court noted, the fact that Adams still possessed the anatomy of a female.
In 2020, a three-judge panel from the appeals court sided with Adams, but when the full appeals court took up the case, the decision that came down was split along party lines, with the seven judges appointed by Republicans favoring the school district’s argument, and the four appointed by Democrats backing Adams.
Judge Barbara Lagoa, a President Trump appointee, wrote in the majority opinion, that Allen D. Nease High School did not violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment or Title IX, which disallows sex-based discrimination in education and, therefore, did not violate Adams’ rights, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Separating school bathrooms based on biological sex passes constitutional muster and comports with Title IX,” Lagoa wrote.
The ruling argued that the school’s bathroom policy is based on biological sex, and that includes transgender students.
“Both sides of the classification — biological males and biological females — include transgender students,” it read.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Jill Pryor stated “that the interest of protecting privacy is not absolute and must coexist alongside fundamental principles of equality, specifically where exclusion implies inferiority,” Fox News reports.
The ruling reverses that of a lower court and is certain to impact the national debate over transgender rights, specifically with respect to private spaces.
In October, a Vermont high school made headlines when it banned the girls’ volleyball team from its own locker room after a biological male who identified as a female athlete made them feel uncomfortable changing.
Vermont HS bans girl’s volleyball team from own locker room over dispute with trans teammate https://t.co/hO0tNedz4B
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) October 2, 2022
Randolph Union High School (RUHS) launched an investigation into the girls to determine whether the trans student had been harassed.
“I feel like for stating my opinion–that I don’t want a biological man changing with me–that I should not have harassment charges or bullying charges,” said RUHS volleyball player Blake Allen at the time. “They should all be dropped.”
The ruling in Florida will likely go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Fox News states.
Lambda Legal, an LGBT advocacy group that assisted Adams, promised a “lengthy” response to the decision.
“This is an aberrant ruling that contradicts the rulings of every other circuit to consider the question across the country,” Tara Borelli, a spokesperson for the group, told Fox News Digital in a statement. “It is also lengthy. We will be reviewing and evaluating this distressing decision over the weekend and will have a fuller response next week.”
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