lgbtq rights

Supreme Court Won’t Overturn School Bathroom Policy Favorable to Transgender Students

A Pennsylvania school district found a way to protect transgender students’ rights while accommodating those who don’t accept them. Photo: Jonathan Kirn/Getty Images

In one of those nondecision decisions that represent the vast majority of its rulings, the Supreme Court today declined to hear an appeal from a lower-court decision in favor of a Pennsylvania school-district policy on the red-state hot-button issue of transgender bathroom use. The policy in question allowed transgender students access to the bathroom appropriate for their gender identity, while providing alternative facilities for any peers who profess to be disturbed by this practice. Politico explains:

The Supreme Court’s decision leaves standing the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals unanimous ruling last year that the Pennsylvania school district can continue allowing transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity …

Michael Levin, counsel for the school district, said the Supreme Court recognized the case wasn’t worthy of further review and “understood the false narrative that is being repeated by the Plaintiffs that their privacy rights were violated.”

“The Boyertown Area School District provides private bathrooms and locker rooms to all students who do not feel comfortable sharing such (spaces) with others, transgender or cisgender,” Levin said in a statement. “The school district’s approach to offer separate and private bathrooms, locker rooms and private spaces to students who desire greater privacy is the common-sense approach that the Plaintiffs claim that they want.”

The suit was originally brought by the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, a moniker that reflects its belief that religious freedom requires the right to discriminate against those the godly deem ungodly, typically LGBTQ folk. Arguing that transgender bathroom use violates a “right to privacy” is an interesting angle for those who almost certainly oppose a constitutional right to privacy for women exercising control over their own bodies in the context of abortion policy. But in any event, school districts like the one in this case that accommodate irrational fears without denying transgender students’ rights undercut the privacy argument decisively.

This case should not be confused, however, with those involving interpretation of federal anti-discrimination laws in this area, an open question after the Trump administration reversed an Obama administration interpretation of the Title IX educational equity law as protecting transgender students. On yet another track, the 7th District Court of Appeals has held that any statute prohibiting sex discrimination should protect trans people on equal-protection grounds. These broader issues have yet to be disposed of by the Supreme Court.

SCOTUS Won’t Overturn Transgender-Friendly School Policy