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US Court upholds Florida school anti-trans bathroom ban in ‘dangerous decision’

The ruling reverses an earlier ruling that deemed the ban unconstitutional.

By Alastair James

Trans flag
The UK has come out miserably in terms of support for pro-trans measure in a new survey. (Image: Unsplash)

A US Court of Appeals has upheld a ban on trans students in a Florida district using a bathroom that matches their gender identity.

On Friday, 30 December 2022 the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted on the matter, resulting in a 7-4 result to uphold the ban. It ruled the policy of St. Johns County school board requiring students to use bathrooms based on biological sex, is constitutional. It also reverses an earlier ruling that deemed the ban unconstitutional.

The ruling relates to a case brought by Drew Adams, who identifies as trans. He began his case in 2017 after he was barred from using the male bathrooms at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

In a statement to Reuters, Adams’ lawyer, Tara Borelli of Lambda Legal said: “This is an aberrant ruling that contradicts the rulings of every other circuit to consider the question across the country. We will be reviewing and evaluating this dangerous decision over the weekend.”

Reuters also reports that the seven judges who voted to uphold the ban were all appointed by Republican presidents. The four opposing were from Democrats.

As per the ruling, Nease provides male, female, and gender-neutral bathrooms. The ruling also details how Adams had been using male bathrooms in 2015 without incident. However, two unidentified students complained and the school told Adams to use the female or gender-neutral bathrooms.

After petitioning the school, Adams decided to sue. He claimed the bathroom policy was in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX of the US Constitution. This bars sex discrimination in education settings.

In the ruling, Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa disagreed with Adams. She reiterated that the policy is based on the gender students were assigned at birth.

Furthermore, she went on to say that it is up to the US Congress to decide if the term ‘gender identity’ should be equal to that of ‘sex’.

Circuit Judge Jill Pryor dissented with the majority opinion. She wrote: “The majority opinion breaks [the] promise,” that no one should be seen as “unfit” for equal protection.

Reuters also reports this issue is likely to be taken up by the US Supreme Court.

This is the latest in a string of battles when it comes to the subject of trans access to bathrooms and changing facilities. Bills such as those in Tennessee could see schools face legal action if someone believes they have used a designated single-sex space, such as a bathroom, with someone who is transgender.

However, in June 2021 the Supreme Court passed on the case of trans student Gavin Grimm. He had challenged a Virginia school board that restricted him from using the men’s bathroom. That meant the lower court’s siding with Grimm remains in place.