Legal Matters

Once again I acknowledge that I am not a lawyer. But news is news.

In Wisconsin the Kenosha Unified School District is having a tough time digesting their loss at the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in the case of high school senior Ash Whitaker.

Whitaker had sued based on a constitutional argument, saying the policy violated his right to equal protection under the law, and under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in public schools. The 7th Circuit agreed.

Unified’s attorney Ronald Stadler said he has been authorized by the district to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. He said he and his firm have until late August to file their petition for review.

I think it is very important for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue because it is affecting schools all across the nation.

--Stadler

Stadler thinks there is a strong chance the Kenosha case will be accepted. He said the court had accepted another transgender rights case last year. But that case [Grimm v. Gloucester County School District] was based on an Obama administration guidance on transgender rights. When the Trump administration rescinded that guidance, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower courts.

There is disagreement on the Board about this action.

Let’s iron it out through policy. Let’s take some information from some other districts that have dealt with this issue, and let’s celebrate the fact that the 7th Circuit upheld and ruled to protect rights.

--Rebecca Stevens

I really do think it is important to let this issue get settled finally for once and for all, because if we don’t do that it’s going to continue to come up regardless of what policies we would write. I do believe it is going to go to the Supreme Court eventually, if not from this district then from some other district.

--Gary Kunich

Whatever happens, it won't affect Whitaker, who has graduated.

In Florida Drew Adams, a 16 year-old rising junior at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra has filed suit in US District Court for the Middle District of Florida, alleging that school officials are violating Title IX and the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Drew and his mother are being represented by Lambda Legal.

We disagree with the plaintiff’s interpretation of the law.

--St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson

Forcing me to use a separate restroom … makes it clear to me that the school district sees me as a lesser person.

--Adams

Adams says he has missed classes because of having to trek to unisex bathrooms.

After three school counselors met with Drew in September 2015 to tell him he was no longer allowed in the boys’ bathroom, his mother met with school officials, hoping to persuade them to change their minds, according to the lawsuit. But she encountered resistance from administrators. One told her he was concerned a transgender girl would “wave her penis around” in a girls’ bathroom, according to the suit.

Drew, who is volunteering at a hospital this summer, said he dreams of becoming a psychiatrist specializing in treating transgender patients, “combining my two loves: my queerness and medicine.” He took three Advanced Placement classes and four honors courses as a sophomore and plans to keep up his rigorous academic load next fall.

Walking to faraway bathrooms takes a lot of time from class. I don’t have time to waste.

--Drew

In Puerto Rico

Lawyers representing three transgender residents of Puerto Rico and an LGBTQ advocacy group have filed papers urging a federal court to strike down Puerto Rico’s policy denying transgender people accurate birth certificates as unconstitutional.

In its complaint, Lambda Legal argues that Puerto Rico’s policy, which does not allow people to amend the gender marker on their birth certificates is unconstitutional, violating the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution and transgender Puerto Ricans’ right to free speech under the First Amendment.

The ability to define and express one’s identity, and to have that identity respected by the government, is at the very core of our constitutional rights to individual liberty, dignity, and autonomy.

The ban endangers transgender people who have identity documents that don’t match who they are by putting them at greater risk for being ‘outed’ as transgender and increasing the likelihood of discrimination, harassment and violence.

The overwhelming majority of the states in the U.S. recognize this. Forty-six out of the 50 states allow transgender individuals to amend the gender marker. Not to mention, this practice is way out of line with Puerto Rico’s own policy of allowing transgender people to amend their gender marker on driver’s licenses.

--Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Lambda Legal

I and all transgender people born on the island deserve to be treated as equal citizens. We are not free until we are able to express who we truly are just like the rest of my fellow Puerto Ricans who are not transgender.

--Daniela Arroyo González, plaintiff

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