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Supreme Court declines to hear IN case of bathroom access for transgender students

Supreme Court

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rejected an appeal from an Indiana school district regarding transgender student bathroom use. The court upheld an appeals court ruling that mandated a middle school in Martinsville, Indiana, to permit a transgender boy, identified as A.C., to use the bathroom aligned with his gender identity.

The Metropolitan School District of Martinsville sought a Supreme Court decision asserting that it is not obligated to allow transgender students to choose their preferred bathrooms. The central question revolved around whether the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, guaranteeing equal application of laws, or Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education, protects transgender students in this context.

The court’s decision to refrain from intervention means that ongoing litigation in lower courts across the nation will persist, leading to varying conclusions by different judges. The Supreme Court is expected to address the issue at some point in the future.

In 2023, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the school district, supporting a federal judge’s injunction that allowed several transgender students to use bathrooms according to their gender identity. The court noted A.C.’s longstanding identification as a boy and his consistent use of male pronouns and appearance.

The Biden administration has issued guidance affirming that Title IX shields against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, providing protection for transgender students. However, this stance has faced opposition, leading to legal battles, including proposed rules for transgender student athletes in competitive sports.

The Supreme Court’s surprising 2020 ruling, authored by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, acknowledged that federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment protects LGBTQ individuals. The current cases raise questions about whether the same reasoning applies to Title IX.

While the Supreme Court declined to address the transgender bathroom issue in 2021, battles continue in various parts of the country. Last year, the court permitted a transgender girl in West Virginia to participate in girls’ sports, emphasizing the ongoing complexity of legal debates surrounding transgender rights in educational settings.