The Column

Religious Right sues small northern MN school for being transgender inclusive

The Alliance Defending Freedom is suing Virginia Minnesota Public Schools (Independent School District Number 706) in federal court alleging a privacy violation after the school allowed a transgender young woman to use bathrooms and changing facilities. The conservative Christian legal organization is representing 10 families in the suit, filed on Wednesday, who call themselves “Privacy Matters.”

The transgender girl, identified as “Student X” in court documents, requested the use of facilities after transitioning in 2014. The district began allowing Student X to use the facilities reflecting her gender starting in early 2016 after reviewing the guidance put forth by the Department of Education regarding Title IX’s coverage of gender identity.

According to the suit, this caused “distress” for the students:

Plaintiff A and F will not return to [Virginia High School] in fall 2016 rather than continue using private facilities with a male student. Girl Plaintiffs A, B, and E, missed instructional class time or athletic practice time while trying to find a locker room or restroom where only girls’ were likely to be present.
Girl Plaintiffs A and E stopped using school restrooms for periods of time, holding their urine all day rather than use a restroom that is accessible to a male.
Parent Plaintiffs A, B, D, E, F, and others observed their daughters’ visible distress, including tearfulness, isolating behavior, and anger, over the Policy that forces them to use locker rooms and restrooms accessible to a male and used by him.

The suit alleges a Christian version of sex and gender that is seemingly contrary to both scientific consensus on the issue and the observable variation in sex and gender present in people and cultures around the world:

Defendants have unilaterally rejected the Title IX meaning of sex, which for 40 years has meant male and female: two objective, fixed, binary classes which are rooted in our human reproductive nature. In lieu of this unambiguous meaning of sex, Defendants inject a distinct and altogether different concept of gender identity which is subjectively discerned, fluid, and nonbinary.

The suit is alleging privacy violations and in addition to the school district, is suing the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education:

No student should be forced to use private facilities at school, like locker rooms and restrooms, with students of the opposite sex. No government agency should hold hostage important education funding to advance an unlawful agenda. And no school district should trade its students’ constitutional and statutory rights for dollars and cents, especially when it means abandoning a common sense practice that long protected every student’s privacy and access to education. Yet the Defendants have taken precisely these actions in this case.

The parents claim that allowing a transgender student to use the facilities that match their gender is a violation of their religious beliefs, and suit is asking the court to find transgender-inclusive schools unconstitutional.

The school district tried to work with the conservative Christian families while maintaining rights for the district’s transgender students, particularly after the Alliance Defending Freedom threatened to sue the district.

In March, the district responded the ADF’s threats with a letter from the district’s attorneys:

The District’s approach to restroom and locker room use is constitutional and purposefully adheres to the interpretation of sex discrimination law under Title IX adopted by the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”). The District has no intention of violating the rights of transgender students by adopting the policy you
suggest…

The District does not intend to institute a policy requiring students to use facilities according to their biological gender, as you demand. However, the District does not wish to see any of its students upset or afraid to use the restroom and locker room facilities. Therefore, the District is willing to discuss possible accommodations for those students who are uncomfortable using communal bathroom and locker room facilities. Please contact us if that is of interest to clients.

Representing the families is Renee Carlson, who spoke out against marriage equality and was part of Lawyers for Marriage, a project of Minnesota for Marriage. She also testified against the Minnesota State High School League’s transgender-inclusive guidance in late 2014.

Among the other attorneys representing the plaintiffs is former Republican lawmaker Doug Wardlow, and former attorney for the Minnesota Family Council, Jordan Lorence.

Here’s the full complaint:

Download (PDF, 924KB)

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