Attorneys for three Oklahoma students filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the state’s newly enacted single-sex school restroom law, arguing that it discriminates against transgender pupils.
The lawsuit challenges the law signed in May by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt that requires students at K-12 public and public charter schools to use multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing rooms based on their birth sex, not their gender identity.
Jon W. Davidson, American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney, said there was “no valid reason to prohibit transgender students from using the same facilities as their peers.”
“Doing so is stigmatizing and damaging. It interferes with their ability to learn at school and can lead to physical harms as well,” Mr. Davidson said. “No problems have arisen in schools that allow transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender. It is time for politicians to stop using young people who are transgender as a wedge issue for political gain.”
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The law, based on an Alabama measure that passed in April, directs schools to designate multiple-occupancy restrooms and changing facilities “for the exclusive use of the male sex or the female sex.” The bill also allows schools to offer single-use restrooms.
Republican state Rep. Kevin West, who introduced the amendment, called it “common-sense legislation that gives our public school districts clear guidance on bathroom policies,” adding that one district had requested clarity on the issue.
“The state attorney general has said it is up to the Legislature to pass a law making it clear that school restrooms should be designated based on biological sex for privacy and safety purposes,” said Mr. West in a statement last April.
The three minor students, represented by the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and the Covington & Burling law firm, sued three public school districts, one charter school, and numerous state and education officials for enforcing the law.
Two of the students were anonymous, while the third was identified as Andrew Bridge, a senior.
“Being able to use the boys’ restroom might seem like a small thing to others, but it is a vital step in my transition,” said Andrew in a statement. “Being barred from using it leaves me singled out and excluded from the rest of my friends and classmates, but also feeling like I’m being told that I’m not worthy of the same respect and dignity as everyone else.”
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The lawsuit argued that the Oklahoma law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education.
In addition, “every major medical and mental health organization” has said that “excluding boys and girls who are transgender from using the same restrooms as other boys and girls is harmful” to their health and well-being, the complaint said.
“[E]xcluding them from the same restrooms used by peers of the same gender also increases their risk of or worsens, their anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm; could lead to suicide; and interferes with the treatment of, and may cause or increase the intensity of, their gender dysphoria,” said the lawsuit.
In 2016, North Carolina became the first state to pass a so-called bathroom bill. But after an economic boycott that included the cancellation of the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed a partial repeal of the law the following year.