Law would bar transgender youth from bathrooms, changing rooms at school
December 1, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — Attorney General Keith Ellison joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general to file a brief in support of blocking an Idaho law that categorically bars transgender students from using school facilities like bathrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
A seventh-grade transgender girl and the Boise High School Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), whose president is a high school senior and transgender male, challenged the law in federal court in Idaho in July. The law, Idaho Senate Bill 1100, also allows students to sue schools for $5,000 or more for each instance where they encounter a transgender student in a facility barred by the law.
“This law is a discriminatory attack on young, transgender Idahoans trying to build lives full of dignity, safety, and respect – three things everyone deserves,” said Attorney General Ellison. “We can’t stand by and watch these fundamental civil rights be eroded.”
The student, Rebecca Roe, and SAGA petitioned the court to block the law from going into effect while their lawsuit continues — a request that the federal district court denied. Roe and SAGA appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. While the Ninth Circuit has blocked the law from going into effect until their appeal is heard, it ultimately must decide whether to overturn the lower court’s decision, blocking the law for the entire duration of the case. The attorneys general support Roe’s and SAGA’s request to block the implementation of the law until the entire case is decided.
In the brief, co-led by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and New York Attorney General Letitia James, the attorneys general argue that denying transgender girls and boys access to the same common restrooms that other girls and boys use is a violation of federal civil rights laws. They also argue that “ensuring transgender people have access to public facilities consistent with their gender identity — including access to common restrooms — benefits all, without compromising safety or privacy, or imposing significant costs.”
There are more than 1.6 million people in the U.S. — including approximately 300,000 youth between 13 and 17 — who identify as transgender. At least 22 states and Washington, D.C., and more than 370 municipalities nationwide offer explicit protections against gender-identity discrimination in areas like education, housing, employment and more.
This April, Minnesota enacted its Trans Refuge Law, protecting people seeking or providing gender-affirming health care in the state from arrests, subpoenas, or extradition requests.
The brief cites several studies that show transgender youth experience discrimination, violence and harassment at much higher rates. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey — the largest survey of transgender people to date — 77% of transgender youth reported being harassed or attacked. More than half reported verbal harassment and nearly a quarter reported a physical attack. Approximately 13% — one in eight — reported being sexually assaulted.
A 2016 study found that transgender people who had been denied access to bathroom facilities were approximately 40% more likely to have attempted suicide than were other transgender people.
In addition to Minnesota, Washington and New York, attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, D.C. also joined the brief.