LGBTQ individuals and rights groups celebrated Tuesday as the U.S. Supreme Court left in place a lower court ruling in favor of a Pennsylvania school district's policy to allow trans students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
"This is an enormous victory for transgender students across the country," Ria Tabacco Mar, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement. The ACLU, in cooperation with the law firm Cozen O'Connor, represented the Pennsylvania Youth Congress, a coalition of LGBTQ youth leaders and groups, in the legal battle.
Moments ago, the US Supreme Court DECLINED to hear the Boyertown case. This is a major win for trans students in PA!
We are proud to have advocated for trans students in Boyertown and throughout our commonwealth as a party in this groundbreaking case. https://t.co/yFvxBv6RBR
— PA Youth Congress (@payouthcongress) May 28, 2019
In 2016, the Boyertown Area School District, located about 45 northeast of Philadelphia, began allowing transgender students to use facilities of their choosing—along with allowing all students access to private facilities. The following year, students backed by the conservative Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom challenged the policy, claiming it violated their right to privacy.
"This lawsuit sought to reverse that hard-won progress by excluding transgender students from school facilities that other students use," said Tabacco Mar. "That would have increased the stigma and discrimination that transgender students already face."
This case against #trans students wasn't about privacy. It was brought forward by an anti- #LGBTQ hate group. They want to make life harder for trans people. I'm glad #SCOTUS saw through that and declined to hear the case. https://t.co/KjyaNRF04G
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) May 28, 2019
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit's claims and upheld the school's policy last year, following a similar ruling from a federal district court in Easton, Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court's decision Tuesday to not hear the case means the appeals court's ruling remains in effect, with broader implications for schools nationwide.
As the ACLU explained in a pair of tweets, "This move means school districts can continue to allow trans students to participate in school activities, and use restrooms and locker rooms, that match their gender."
Trans students are not a threat. This move means school districts can continue to allow trans students to participate in school activities, and use restrooms and locker rooms, that match their gender.
— ACLU (@ACLU) May 28, 2019
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"I was the first openly transgender student at my school and the first to publicly transition," Aidan DeStefano, a recent graduate of Boyertown High, wrote for the ACLU's blog last year.
During 11th grade, DeStefano's school counselor told him that he could use the boys' facilities, which he did during his final year at the school.
"By the time I graduated high school, I was using the boys' bathroom and participating on the boys' cross-country team. I felt like I belonged and had the confidence I needed to continue with my education," DeStefano said in a statement Tuesday. "I'm glad the Supreme Court is allowing schools like mine to continue supporting transgender students."
The news was also welcomed on Twitter by advocates for LGBTQ rights:
BREAKING: #SCOTUS will not review case involving challenge to school policies in Boyertown, Pennsylvania that support the rights and dignity of trans students.
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) May 28, 2019
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) May 28, 2019
This victory for the LGBTQ community comes amid a wave of recent attacks from the Trump administration—which include enabling healthcare providers and taxpayer-funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender individuals and purging transgender servicemembers from the military.
"Thankfully, today's announcement allows schools to move forward with policies that support transgender students. But our work is far from over," said Tabacco Mar of the ACLU. "We will continue to defend the transgender community from attacks in the courts, the legislatures, and the White House."