11th Circuit Rules v. Andrew Adams in the transgender case
A majority consists almost entirely of a federal appeals court donald trump officers reigns against a transgender activist in a case involving toilet use in schools. The dissent was four Barack Obama officers.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Florida ruled 7-4 Friday that the St. Johns County school board did not unlawfully discriminate against transgender students Andrew Adams when it refused to allow him to use the boys’ bathroom at his high school.
Adams, who is now a 20-year-old man and a transgender activist, attended Allen D. Nease High School in St. Augustine, Florida. The school maintains an unwritten policy that students must use either the bathroom that matches their gender as listed in the registration form or a gender-neutral bathroom for single occupancy.
Adams used the school’s men’s restrooms early in the ninth grade “without incident.” However, after two students complained to officials, the school barred Adams from using the boys’ restroom because the district does not accept updates on students’ genders after enrollment.
After the school refused to change its policies in response to Adams’ request, Adams sued in federal district court for violation of his civil rights under 42 USC § 1983 and violation of the United States Constitution’s equal protections clause. After a three-day trial, the district court ruled in Adams’ favor on both counts, awarded him $1,000 in damages and ordered the school board to allow Adams to use male bathrooms.
However, the seven judges of the 11th Federal Court of Justice reversed course in a verdict that was strictly based on partisan considerations.
Judge appointed by Trump Barbara Lagoa said the case concerned the “unobtrusive — and almost universal — practice of segregating school toilets by sex.” The remainder of the seven-member majority of the court consisted of five other Trump-appointed persons (US Circuit Judges Brit Grant, Kevin Newsom, Elizabeth branch, Robert luckand Andrew Brasher), and a George W Bush Appointment — US Circuit Judge William Pryor.
The majority ruled that the school’s policies violated neither the equal protections clause of the constitution nor Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, noting that of the district’s more than 40,000 residents, only sixteen identify as transgender.
In the court’s equality analysis, Lagos referred to the former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall‘s words to support the central premise of the majority that same-sex bathrooms, being commonplace, are not unlawfully discriminatory.
Lagos wrote: “Indeed, the universality of [separating bathrooms by gender] That is precisely why Judge Thurgood Marshall testified…”[a] A ‘Men Only’ sign on a bathroom door looks very different than it does on a courthouse door – so concise.”
Lagos applied an intermediate exam to the school’s gender classification and found that the school’s policies were adequately tailored to their needs. She wrote that respect should be given to districts because “the responsibility of schools is such that they may be held liable for their failure to protect students from sexual assault and harassment,” and said that Adams’ district have already made “great efforts” to accommodate LGBTQ students.
Schools’ most important concern, Lagos said, is a responsibility to protect students’ privacy by “protecting their bodies from the opposite sex.”
The majority of the court said what is relevant to Adam’s case is Not his status as a transgender boy. Rather, the decisive factor is whether all students have to adhere to the same policy, the statement said. Citing the pleadings, the majority said:
Adams’ challenge to the toilet policy revolves around whether Adams, who was “determined solely by a birth accident” to be a biological female, is allowed access to bathrooms reserved for those “determined only by a birth accident” to be biologically male.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the school’s policies do not discriminate against transgender students because no student — whether transgender or cisgender — is allowed to use a bathroom that does not match their gender, which is listed on their enrollment papers. Lagos acknowledged that at most it was a question of “different effects” on transgender students. However, the judge said differential effects alone are not enough to render an otherwise neutral policy unlawful.
The 11th Circuit Court similarly dismissed Adam’s Title IX claim, noting that Title IX clearly allows for “omissions” such as for same-sex housing and bathroom facilities, and that “sex” clearly means “biological sex.”
In a particular endorsement of her own opinion, Lagos wrote that a verdict in Adams’ favor would be “detrimental” to girls’ sport. Allowing a transgender boy to use the girls’ restroom, Lagos said, would compromise the entire purpose of Title IX:
[A] Transgender athletes who are born biological males may require the ability to try and compete for an athletic team composed of biological females. Such mixing of the biological sexes in the field of women’s athletics would severely undermine the benefits afforded to female athletes under the Title IX allowance for gender-segregated athletic teams.
The four dissenting judges were all Barack Obama Appointments: US Circuit Judges Karl Wilson, Adalbert Jordan, Robin Rosenbaumand Jill Pryor.
Wilson authored a 7-page dissent calling the school’s toilet policy “nonsensical” and arguing that “organic sex” is not a “static” concept. Wilson began by discussing chromosomal irregularities that result in individuals being born with intersex variations.
“Then how does the bathroom policy address intersex people?” asked Wilson.
Wilson claimed that district policy would prohibit an intersex student from updating their gender identity, saying it was “plainly discriminatory.” He continued, noting that the majority deliberately sidestepped a violation of the constitution “by leading the court down this ‘biological sex’ path and misunderstanding Adam’s arguments all the way.”
Wilson was openly skeptical of the school’s offered justification for its policy: “If the school board were genuinely concerned about male genitalia in the female bathroom, or vice versa, the policy would accommodate intersex students and accept updated documentation.”
Jordan also authored a dissent — one that focused on another inconsistency in school policy; Adams was barred from updating his gender in school documentation, but another transgender student “just like Drew” was able to use the boys’ restroom if he registered at school after this Transition based on documents listing his gender as male.
“Because such a student shares the same alleged safety and privacy concerns as Drew, the school board’s restroom policy can only be justified by administrative convenience,” Jordan wrote.
Jordan also chided the majority for “once again throwing a district court’s findings of fact in the dustbin” by ignoring how the policy is actually used.
“All that would be required is for the school board to accept the new (or revised) enrollment documents (such as a new form, new birth certificate and new driver’s license) identifying Drew as male,” the judge wrote.
Rosenbaum used her brief agreement to underscore the point that if the majority decision were correct, all courts in the 11th Circuit would be required to reverse decisions including restrooms, locker rooms, and locker rooms.
However, it was Pryor who authored a lengthy 65-page dissent that slammed the majority from every angle.
Every time teenager Andrew Adams went to the bathroom at his school, Allen D. Nease High School, he had to endure a stigmatizing and humiliating walk of shame — past the boys’ bathrooms and into a “gender-neutral” bathroom with a cabin . The experience made him feel unworthy, like “something that needs to be put away.” The reason why he was prevented from using the boys’ toilet like other boys? He is a transgender boy.
Pyror said the majority definition of “biological sex” is “counterfactual” because it addresses the wrong issue that Adam’s claim is about. While the court focused on whether transgender students would be selected for their mandated use of same-sex bathrooms, Pryor said the relevant question was whether Adams – a boy – would be permitted to use it Boys‘ Bath.
Pryor’s frustration was evident: “It’s not, and never has been (no matter how many times majority opinion says it), whether the school district can maintain separate bathrooms for boys and girls.”
Regarding the right to equal protection, Pryor said the policy was discriminatory against transgender students on the face of it, and that the gender classification might not stand up to closer scrutiny. Pryor also noted that the district’s “arbitrary and arbitrary” manner in enforcing its own policy demonstrates the district’s lack of legitimate interest in the policy’s stated objectives.
In addition, Pryor wrote that under the law “gender” includes “gender identity,” thereby granting Adams Title IX protection.
The parties’ attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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