Juliet Evancho, a transgender teenager whose sister sang the national anthem at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, won her case in federal court Monday when a judge ruled that her school must allow students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Judge Mark R. Hornak, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, issued an injunction against the Pine-Richland School District from enforcing its policy barring transgender students from using the restroom of their choice. He argued that Evancho and the other two students who sued the school had a “reasonable likelihood” of ultimately arguing that the policy was unconstitutional.
“The Plaintiffs appear to the Court to be young people seeking to do what young people try to do every day-go to school, obtain an education, and interact as equals with their peers. ... [T]he Plaintiffs have shown a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the District’s enforcement of Resolution 2 as to their use of common school restrooms does not afford them equal protection of the law as guaranteed to them by the Fourteenth Amendment,” Hornak wrote.
Evancho’s case has received renewed attention since Trump’s administration rescinded federal guidelines this month instructing schools to treat students’ gender identity as their sex. Under President Barack Obama, the Education and Justice departments interpreted Title IX, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex, as also covering transgender individuals.
Trump, however, believes that transgender issues should be left up to the states to deal with.
Jackie Evancho, one of the few performers who agreed to appear at Trump’s inauguration, spoke out after the new administration’s Title IX announcement and asked to meet with the president to press the case for transgender rights.
The Supreme Court is also scheduled to hear oral arguments on March 28 in the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender teenager in Virginia who sued his school for the right to use the boys bathroom.
LGBTQ advocates have emphasized that even though the Trump administration rescinded the Obama administration’s Title IX guidance, the legal foundation that interpretation was built upon is still solid.
“While it’s disappointing to see the Trump administration revoke the guidance, the administration cannot change what Title IX means,” said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union who is lead counsel for Grimm. “When it decided to hear Gavin Grimm’s case, the Supreme Court said it would decide which interpretation of Title IX is correct, without taking any administration’s guidance into consideration. We’re confident that the law is on Gavin’s side and he will prevail just as he did in the Fourth Circuit.”
In the Evancho ruling Monday, the judge’s injunction was based on equal protection rather than Title IX. He said that because of the Trump administration’s recent decision and the upcoming Supreme Court case, the Title IX issue was still too “clouded with uncertainty.”
“The court recognized that policies that seek to erase a transgender student’s identity do not address any real problems, but rather only serve to discriminate and harm our youth,” said Lambda Legal staff attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, who represented the students. “Such policies are not only wrong, they are illegal. The rescission of guidance by the Trump administration cannot change that.”
As The New York Times noted, it’s unclear whether the Pine-Richland School District will continue to pursue its case on its bathroom policy.
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