Federal Judge Upholds Idaho’s Transgender School Bathroom Law

The court is "not a policy-making body," the judge said.
DURHAM, NC - MAY 10: Unisex signs hang outside bathrooms at Toast Paninoteca on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina. Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 (HB2) that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

A federal judge last week upheld Idaho’s school bathroom law requiring students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their biological gender.

Chief U.S. District Judge David Nye on Thursday denied a request to block the law from being enforced while a lawsuit plays out.

The Idaho law requires public schools to have separate bathrooms and changing areas for biological boys and girls and prohibits trans-identifying students to use the bathroom of the opposite gender. The law also gives students the right to sue their school if they see a student using a bathroom that does not match their biological sex.

“Although it likely comes as little solace to Idaho’s transgender students who, as a result of the court’s decision today, may have to change their routines, or who, regrettably, may face other societal hardships, the court must stay within its lane, Its duty is to interpret the law; it is not a policy-making body,” Nye wrote in his opinion.

The law had already gone into effect on July 1, but it was halted when the judge issued a temporary restraining order against it in August. The law will take effect again early next month.

Lambda Legal, a national LBGT advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against the law on behalf of a trans-identifying Idaho student, alleging that the law unconstitutionally discriminates against trans-identifying students.

The judge also denied the state’s request the throw out the case, saying state attorneys asked for the case to be dismissed in a “perfunctory manner, with little explanation.”

Nevertheless, Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador in a statement called Thursday’s ruling a significant win for the state.


“Society has separated these intimate facilities for time immemorial, and it is particularly important that the safety and privacy interests of minor students are protected,” Labrador said.

Transgender bathroom and locker room use has become a hot-button issue in school districts around the country, with many parents sounding off about their concerns around their children sharing these spaces with students of the opposite gender.

Another common concern has been student gender transitions at school. Parents have accused their children’s schools of keeping them in the dark about their children’s new gender identities for long periods of time. Some have gone as far as suing their school districts.

More than 18,000 schools across the country have rules saying school staff can or should hide a student’s gender identity from parents, according to a list compiled by Parents Defending Education.

Some of the larger districts on the list are Chicago Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District, D.C. Public Schools, Baltimore City Public Schools, San Francisco Unified School District, Portland Public Schools, and Seattle Public Schools.

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