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Why Federal Court Rulings that Favor Trans Students are so Important

Why Federal Court Rulings that Favor Trans Students are so Important

On May 30, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a groundbreaking ruling in favor of Ashton Whitaker, the transgender student plaintiff in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District. In a unanimous decision, the court upheld the preliminary injunction, issued by a federal district court in September 2016, that has allowed Ash, a senior at Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to use the boys’ restrooms at school throughout his senior year without fear of discipline or invasive surveillance by school officials. The judges held that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This was the second Appeals Court to issue such a ruling, as the Fourth Circuit did so in the well-known case, G.G. vs. Gloucester County School Board in August of 2016.  The Fourth Circuit ruled that Gavin’s school’s discriminatory policy violated Title IX, and filed an injunction demanding that transgender students be allowed to use restrooms in accordance with their gender identity. The G.G. case was scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 28, but after President Trump rescinded the trans inclusion guidance issued by the previous administration, the case was sent back to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further review.

Our tradition teaches us to seek justice for all of God’s children, regardless of their gender identity. When the URJ and the CCAR adopted their resolutions on trans equality, we affirmed our Movement’s longstanding view that each of us, created in God’s image, has a unique talent, with which we can contribute to the high moral purpose of tikkun olam, the repair of our world.

During the past several years, the transgender and gender non-conforming community has gone through periods of triumph and setback, but this most recent decision is grounds for celebration. As more cases are filed on behalf of Title IX violations, we hope to see similar results from Appeals Courts around the country, and every time an Appeals Court issues such a ruling, transgender and gender non-conforming students are given the rights they deserve.

Max Antman is 2016-2017 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Max is originally from Evanston, IL., where he is a member of Beth Emet the Free Synagogue. Max attended the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign.

Max Antman

Published: 7/17/2017