(WB) The Human Rights Campaign, (HRC) has filed suit in the U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee challenging the Tennessee law that denies transgender students, faculty, and staff access to the bathroom, locker rooms and other sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity.
The suit filed Tuesday by the Washington D.C. based LGBT advocacy group joined by the law firms of Linklaters and Branstetter, Stranch, & Jennings PLLC, is on behalf of two trans students currently enrolled in Tennessee schools and alleges that the law violates Title IX, the 1972 federal law that protects against sex discrimination in education.
HRC in a press release noted that its federal suit was brought on behalf of 14-year-old Alex* and his parents, Amy A. and Jeff S., as well as 6-year-old Ariel* and her parents, Julie and Ross B.
“Alex is excited to start high school this fall where he will be an honor student. His family relocated to Tennessee in 2018 to build their ‘forever home’ in an incredibly supportive and tight-knit neighborhood and Alex takes pride in being involved in his community and has created strong friendships among his peers at school.”
He came out as transgender before the 7th grade, however, in 7th grade he was not allowed to use the boys’ restroom. Instead, Alex was forced to either use the school nurse’s private bathroom or the restroom that corresponded to his gender assigned at birth — not due to statewide legislation, but instead due to the school policy. Both options were alienating and isolating for Alex who instead stopped drinking liquids at school to avoid having to use the facilities.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic-related issues, Alex transferred to a private school for 8th grade that affirmed his gender identity, including permitting access to the boys’ restroom — Alex enjoyed a great year, without incident. He is also looking forward to starting high school at the public school near his home, but due to Tennessee’s anti-Trans bathroom law, He will again be forced into using restrooms that are stigmatizing or forgo using the bathroom altogether.
To protect Alex, Amy and Jeff are considering moving from their beloved community and leaving their "forever home" behind out of fear for Alex’s safety at school and emotional wellbeing, the statement concludes.
In the case of the second plaintiff, HRC noted: Similar to Alex, Ariel’s family built their "forever home" from the ground up in a neighborhood they fell in love with and that fills Julie, Ross, and Ariel with happiness and friendship.
Ariel began expressing her gender identity at 2 years old and when she was nearing 4 years old, Julie read the children’s book “I Am Jazz,” to Ariel that tells the story of a transgender girl. When the main character explains that she “has a boy body with a girl's brain.” Ariel immediately lit up with excitement and eagerly told her mother, “that’s me, momma, I have a boy body with a girl's brain.”
Since Ariel began her social transition at 4 years old, her classmates, their parents, teachers and school administrators have only known Ariel as her authentic self. When she was enrolled in kindergarten, her school was receptive and understanding of her gender identity and has largely protected Ariel from stigmatizing experiences.
In anticipation of Ariel starting 1st grade at a different school this fall, Julie reached out to the principal to discuss accommodations for her daughter.
Since Tennessee’s bathroom law is enacted, Ariel will have to use the boy’s restroom or the private nurse’s bathroom despite only ever using the girl’s restroom. Due to her young age, Ariel does not understand the law’s ramifications or why she is being told to use the boy’s bathroom.
Julie and Ross are also considering moving out of Tennessee due to these anti-transgender laws out of fear for their growing daughter, the statement concluded.
Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Title IX expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs. In June the U.S. Education Department announced it would expand its interpretation of federal sex protections to include transgender and gay students. The new policy directive means that discrimination based on a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity will be treated as a violation of Title IX.
The lawsuit also alleges that the law violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to deny certiorari in Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board left in place a federal circuit court decision recognizing the rights of transgender students under the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX.
In July a federal judge blocked a new law in Tennessee that required businesses and other entities that allow transgender people to use the public restroom that matches their gender to post a government-prescribed warning sign.
“This law is bad for businesses in Tennessee, and most importantly, harmful to transgender people,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director. “We are glad the court saw that this law is likely unconstitutional and hope that the state gives up the wasteful effort to defend discrimination and a violation of the First Amendment.”