Challenge to Trans Student Bathroom Access Advances

Federal court says valid sexual harassment, religious freedom claims asserted on trans bathroom Access

In a first round advance for the anti-LGBTQ litigation group Alliance Defending Freedom, a federal court judge has allowed a lawsuit challenging the Palatine, Illinois, high school district’s policy that allows trans students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity to proceed on theories of sexual harassment and free exercise of religion.

The March 29 ruling by District Judge Jorge L. Alonso came in response to a suit filed by students and their parents in the district who claim the policy unfairly discriminates against cisgender students who don’t want to be exposed to trans students when using what the plaintiffs refer to as “privacy facilities.”

However, Alonso dismissed a claim the policy violated the cisgender students’ right to bodily privacy or their parents’ right to direct their children’s education.

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court assumed that the plaintiffs’ factual allegations as true in deciding whether they have stated a potentially valid legal claim. The school district, which moved to dismiss all the claims, has not filed an answer to the complaint, so the plaintiffs’ rather argumentative characterization of the facts has not yet been challenged. 

The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, which advocates on behalf of LGBTQ students, has been granted intervenor status, as have three trans students. The Alliance and the student intervenors are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project.

The complaint uses terminology typical of ADF’s anti-LGBTQ propaganda.

“The crux of this suit is that defendants seek to affirm the claimed genders of students by allowing male students who claim female gender to use privacy facilities (i.e., bathrooms and locker rooms) designated for use by the female sex and female students who claim male gender to use privacy facilities designated for the male sex,” the ADF complaint reads. “Plaintiffs refer to the policy as District 211’s ‘compelled affirmation policy.’… District 211 adopted the policy solely to affirm the claimed genders of those students claiming a gender different from their sex at birth.”

The policy, the plaintiffs allege, has caused cisgender students “embarrassm­ent, humiliation, anxiety, fear, apprehension, stress, degradation, and the loss of dignity.” Those students, the suit contends, “are at continual risk of encountering (and sometimes do encounter), without their consent, members of the opposite sex while disrobing, showering, urinating, defecating, and while changing tampons and feminine napkins.”

GayCityNewsNYC.com, by Arthur Leonard, April 3, 2019

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How ‘Real America’ Became Queer America

The Trump administration may be busy waging culture wars. But in the heartland, it’s never been a better time to be L.G.B.T.

This may seem like a strange time to feel optimistic about the future of L.G.B.T. rights in America. But as a queer transgender woman who has spent most of her adult life in red states, hopeful is exactly how I feel.

In July 2017 — the same month that President Trump announced on Twitter that he would ban transgender troops — I left on a six-week-long road trip across the red states. I wanted to understand what motivated L.G.B.T. people to stay in the heartland at a time when some progressives were still pondering escaping to Canada.

What I learned on the way from Utah to Georgia only reaffirmed what I have come to believe over the past decade: Attitudes toward L.G.B.T. people are changing rapidly in conservative states, and no one inside the Beltway can stop it. This country’s bright queer future is already here, hiding where too few of us care to travel.

From a bird’s-eye perspective, it may not seem that life has changed for L.G.B.T. Americans in so-called flyover country. State laws prohibiting discrimination against them remain elusive in red states — although Utah notably passed one in 2015. But in their absence, midsize cities have become pockets of L.G.B.T. acceptance.

In the West, cities including Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake CityBozeman, Mont.; and Laramie, Wyo., have passed L.G.B.T.-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the past decade. Below the Mason-Dixon line, the list of cities with such laws includes Atlanta and New Orleans; Birmingham, Ala.; and Jackson, Miss. L.G.B.T. Texans have had to fend off all manner of horrific state-level bills, but if they live in Austin, Dallas, Plano or Fort Worth, they have solid local laws on their side. And Midwestern hubs like St. Louis and Omaha likewise offer L.G.B.T. protections.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national L.G.B.T. advocacy organization, is downright cheerful about this trend at a time when queer optimism feels in short supply. In the its 2018 Municipal Equality Index, the group’s president, Chad Griffin, wrote
that “while cynical politicians in Washington, D.C., attempt to roll back our hard-fought progress, many local leaders are championing equality in big cities and small towns from coast to coast.”

And this progress includes transgender people. According to the group’s data, over 180 cities and counties in states whose electoral votes went to Mr. Trump in 2016 now protect employees not just on the basis of sexual orientation but gender identity as well.

On my road trip through what is ostensibly Trump country, I met many L.G.B.T. people who saw no need to flee their conservative home states for the coastal safe havens of generations past, thanks to local progress.

In Utah, I made arts and crafts with transgender and gender-nonconforming teenagers, most of whom belong to Mormon families. Over coffee in the Rio Grande Valley, a nonbinary friend told me that the region’s L.G.B.T. people remain as hardy as the prickly pear cactuses of South Texas. And in an Indiana town where everyone knows everyone, a transgender woman in her 50s told me how much things have changed in her area since she first came out over the course of the 2000s.

by Samantha Allen, New York Times, March 14, 2019

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U.S. appeals court hands win to Trump on transgender military ban


In a legal victory for U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, a federal appeals court on Friday threw out a lower court ruling that blocked a policy barring certain transgender people from serving in the U.S. armed forces, which the government said is important for military readiness.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned a decision by a federal judge in Washington, D.C. to block the Trump policy because it likely violates the constitutional rights of transgender recruits and service members.

AOL.com, January 4, 2019 – by Lawrence Hurley

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Can a Fired Transgender Worker Sue for Job Discrimination?

In 2013, a funeral director who had been known as Anthony Stephens wrote to colleagues at a Michigan funeral home, asking for patience and support.

“What I must tell you is very difficult for me and is taking all the courage I can muster,” the letter said. “I have felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind, and this has caused me great despair and loneliness.”

“I will return to work as my true self, Aimee Australia Stephens, in appropriate business attire,” she wrote. “I hope we can continue my work at R. G. and G. R. Harris Funeral Homes doing what I always have, which is my best!”

Ms. Stephens had worked there for six years. Her colleagues testified that she was able and compassionate.

“He was a very good embalmer,” one said. “He was very, very thorough. Had obviously had a lot of practice prior to coming to the Harris Funeral Home. Families seemed very pleased with his work. He did a good job.”

Two weeks after receiving the letter, though, the home’s owner, Thomas Rost, fired Ms. Stephens. Asked for the “specific reason that you terminated Stephens,” Mr. Rost said: “Well, because he was no longer going to represent himself as a man. He wanted to dress as a woman.”

Mr. Rost also said he did not want to address Ms. Stephens as Aimee. “I’m uncomfortable with the name,” Mr. Rost said, “because he’s a man.”

The case went to court, and Ms. Stephens won in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati. Discrimination against transgender people, the court ruled, was barred by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex.

“It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” the court said. “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

by Adam Liptak, NYTimes.com, November 12, 2018

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Trump Administration Eyes Defining Transgender Out of Existence

The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.

A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth. The policy prompted fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed.trans trump

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration and helped write transgender guidance that is being undone.

The move would be the most significant of a series of maneuvers, large and small, to exclude the population from civil rights protections and roll back the Obama administration’s more fluid recognition of gender identity. The Trump administration has sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military and has legally challenged civil rights protections for the group embedded in the nation’s health care law.

Several agencies have withdrawn Obama-era policies that recognized gender identity in schools, prisons and homeless shelters. The administration even tried to remove questions about gender identity from a 2020 census survey and a national survey of elderly citizens.

By Erica L. Green, Katie Benner and Robert Pear, New York Times, October 21, 2018

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Trans Folks Want Babies Too

Parenting isn’t only meant for cisgender people.

Being a transgender parent isn’t always as complicated in real life as the media portrays it. While the nuances are rarely covered in magazines, shows like Amazon’s Transparent, which is heading into a fifth and final season, highlight what the trans experience is like long after the children are born. But today’s science is more sophisticated than in decades past, which has opened up the opportunity for trans folks to conceive children even after they’ve transitioned.trans parents

“Trans people having children is not a new thing at all,” affirms Trystan Reese, director of family formation at the Family Equality Council (FamilyEquality.org). “It’s newer in terms of how much other people may know about it but it’s been happening for a couple of decades or so.”

Reese is a trans man who gave birth to a baby boy named Leo in 2017. Leo is the first biological baby for Reese and his husband, Biff Chaplow, but he’s their third child (they had previously adopted Chaplow’s niece and nephew).

The Oregon couple admit that trans people giving birth has been relatively under the radar. Being an out trans person can be dangerous in many parts of the country, where education about the trans experience is limited. Despite these difficulties, Reese continues to promote fertility rights for transgender people. His efforts included hosting the council’s recent Seahorses & Unicorns event, which helped share as much information about transgender fertility options as possible with the community.

As more trans people look into birthing children, doctors have begun updating their language. Many now refer to egg freezing and sperm freezing as simply gamete freezing, dropping the gender identity of the process. Whether freezing eggs, sperm, or embryos for future assisted pregnancies, gamete freezing is gaining traction among trans people before transitioning lessens their reproductive ablities or they change their gender identity with medical assistance like hormones and surgery.

Aadvocate.com,  by NAYIRAH MUHAMMAD, October 2, 2018

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New Supreme Court Term Potentially Momentous for LGBT Rights

The Supreme Court begins its October 2018 Term, which runs through June 2019, on October 1.

During the week of September 24, the Supreme Court holds its “long conference,” during which the Justices consider the long list of petitions for review filed with the Court since last spring, and assembles its docket of cases for argument after those granted late last term are heard.  While there are several petitions involving LGBT-related issues pending before the Court, it is unlikely that there will be any announcement about these cases until late October or November at the earliest.Anthony Kennedy retirement

Three of the pending petitions raise one of the most hotly contested LGBT issues being litigated in the lower federal courts: Whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination because of an individual’s sex, can be interpreted to extend to claims of discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. One of the three cases also raises the question whether an employer with religious objections gender transition has a defense under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Another petition presents the question whether a judge who has religious objections to conducting same-sex marriages has a 1st Amendment right to refuse to do so.

Although many state civil rights laws ban such discrimination, a majority of states do not, so the question whether the federal law applies is particularly significant in the Southeast and Midwest, where state courts are generally unavailable to redress such discrimination.

With President Donald J. Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat vacated by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Jr.’s, retirement, which was effective on July 31, petitions pending at the Supreme Court took on heightened significance while the Senate confirmation process was taking place. The Senate Republican leadership had hoped to speed the process so that Trump’s appointee would be seated on the Court by the time the term began on October 1, but accusations of long-ago sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh have caused the Judiciary Committee’s vote to be delayed.  Meanwhile, the eight-member Court had to confront the question during their long conference of whether to grant review on cases as to which the justices were likely to be evenly divided, when they were unsure when the ninth seat would be filled and who would fill it.  As of the end of September, they had already scheduled oral arguments on cases granted last spring running through the first week of November.

ArtLeonardObservations.com. September 24, 2018, by Art Leonard

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Germany Must Allow Third Gender Category, Court Rules

Germany must create a third gender category for people who do not identify as either male or female or were born with ambiguous sexual traits, the country’s constitutional court ruled on Wednesday, finding that binary gender designations violated the right to privacy.

In 2013, Germany became the first European country to allow parents to register newborns as neither female nor male, if the child was born with characteristics of both sexes.

The new decision, by the Federal Constitutional Court, goes further, giving lawmakers until the end of 2018 to either allow the introduction of a third gender category or dispense with gender altogether in public documents.Germany transgender

The ruling arrives as society, medicine and law increasingly recognize the ways in which gender is socially constructed and not necessarily fixed or stable.

According to Lambda Legal, an American organization that works for the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people, at least eight countries — Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan — recognize more than two genders on passports or national ID cards.

Thailand recognizes a third gender in its Constitution but has not yet made that an option on government documents.

In June, for the first time in Canada, a newborn was issued a health document without a gender: a health card that listed U as the gender, for unspecified or unknown. In August, Canada began issuing passports with a third gender option, designated with an X.

Several American states have offered residents gender-neutral options on drivers licenses, and last month, California passed a law that allows nonbinary and intersex people a nonbinary category on their birth certificates.

While much of the change worldwide has involved transgender people, the discussion has also focused attention on intersex people, those born with traits of both sexes.

“Children who are born with atypical sex characteristics are often subject to irreversible sex assignment, involuntary sterilization, involuntary genital normalizing surgery,” a 2013 report from the United Nations special rapporteur on torture found, noting that they were left “with permanent, irreversible infertility and causing severe mental suffering.” Human Rights Watch has condemned such procedures.