A federal judge has ruled in favor of a trio of Pennsylvania transgender students who sued their school district last year over a bathroom choice policy they say violates their civil rights.
The ruling announced Monday grants a preliminary injunction sought by the three students at Pine-Richland School District near Pittsburgh and effectively ensures they will be able to use the bathroom corresponding with their chosen gender identity as their case proceeds through the courts.
Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, staff attorney at Lambda Legal, the group which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the students, said: “This is just a temporary preliminary injunction as the case proceeds. But as it proceeds, our clients can use the facilities that match who they are and the district is obligated to do so under the U.S. Constitution.”
Gonzalez-Pagan said the district now has until March 15 to formally answer the students’ complaint in the western district court where the case is being heard.
Transgender in Pennsylvania: A look at the rights, laws in the state
The lawsuit and complaint were filed late last year, after the district’s school board reversed a long-standing policy that allowed students to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity.
In doing so, the district began requiring students to use unisex facilities or those matching their biological sex.
The transgender students’ lawsuit followed soon after and included a request for a preliminary injunction freezing enforcement of the district’s new rule.
On Monday, that injunction was granted by federal judge Mark R. Hornak who wrote: “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. … The 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.”
That last sentence speaking to the likely success of their lawsuit has bolstered not only the students, but also their lawyers and supporters.
It also comes just days after the Trump administration moved to rollback federal guidelines issued under President Barack Obama that urged districts to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choosing.
Transgender student on bathroom debate: ‘It’s just a place to pee’
The Trump administration said it would leave the issue up to the states, not the federal government.
“Not with-standing the Trump Administration’s misguided and cruel actions last week, the court today found that the school’s policy barring transgender students from the restroom that matches who they are violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution,” a statement from the Pine-Richland students’ lawyers reads. “Every student must be respected for who they are and be afforded equal educational opportunity.”
A spokesperson for the Pine-Richland School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night, but the district has repeatedly refused to comment on ongoing or pending litigation.
In granting the preliminary injunction Monday, the court also denied the district’s request to dismiss the transgender students’ case.
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