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Federal Judge Backs Transgender Inclusive School Policy in Illinois

Illinois School District 211(Photo: dailyherald.com)

A federal judge in Chicago has ruled that anti-discrimination statutes extend to transgender students.

U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso refused to impose a preliminary injunction against High School District 211 in Palatine, Illinois on Friday. The lawsuit was brought on by a group of 50 families represented by conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom operating under the name Students and Parents for Privacy. The ADF is behind many of the lawsuits against transgender rights in schools across the United States.

The unidentified student that the case filing refers to as “Student A” is a transgender female who has since graduated from the school. The ADF has continued the case in an attempt to prevent transgender kids from having the right to use school facilities that match their gender identity in the future.

In a 15-page written opinion, Judge Alonso states that laws prohibiting discrimination by sex do not apply only to those who fall into conventional male-female categories. He concluded that courts have "correctly recognized" that "federal protections against sex discrimination are substantially broader than based only on genitalia or chromosome."

Alonso also cited the availability of privacy stalls for all students in the locker rooms at the Illinois school as a mitigating factor:

"This case does not involve the forced or extreme invasions of privacy that the courts addressed in the cases cited by plaintiffs," wrote Alonso. "Further, the restrooms at issue here have privacy stalls that can be used by students seeking an additional layer of privacy, and single-use facilities are also available upon request. Given these protections, there is no meaningful risk that a student's unclothed body need be seen by any other person."

Judge Alonso also noted that the inclusive policy had been in place for three years prior to the lawsuit.

The ACLU of Illinois, which represented the student in the case, praised the judge’s ruling:

"The groups who filed this case remain unable to demonstrate any harm to their clients from sharing restrooms and locker rooms with students who they perceive as different," says John Knight, director of the ACLU of Illinois' LGBTQ Project. "The plaintiffs' fear-mongering and persistent refusal to respect the core gender of these students cannot change the simple fact that there is no legal justification for requiring District 211 to separate and stigmatize transgender students because of who they are."

Illinois School District 211(Photo: Eric Peterson - dailyherald.com)

The ruling does not mean that the ADF has lost the civil case that was originally filed in 2016, but it suggests that the claim that the Illinois school district’s transgender inclusive policy infringes on the privacy rights of other students has no merit.

The ADF is likely to appeal the ruling, hoping that the issue will eventually be raised in the Supreme Court. “It's not a defeat until the Supreme Court rules the wrong way. And I don't think they will," said Gary McCaleb, a lawyer for the ADF in Arizona.

Alonso repeatedly cited recent 7th Circuit rulings, including one from May in which a three-judge panel said a transgender student at Kenosha Wisconsin's Tremper High School who identifies as a male should be able to use the boys' bathroom at his Wisconsin high school.

Alonso wrote that key rulings over the past year protecting transgender and LGBT rights meant direction to trial-level courts from the 7th Circuit as “now clear, and binding."