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Court Backs Idaho School Gender Laws

by | Sat, Oct 28 2023

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A Federal District Court judge in the US state of Idaho has upheld a state law that requires students with gender dysphoria to conform with traditional school practices. They are required to use bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their biological gender, and NOT their preferred gender identity.

Judge David Nye denied a request for an injunction against the law. He said that despite offering little comfort to Idaho’s transgender students, the court’s duty is to interpret the law, not to decide policy.

He ruled the state has an interest in protecting the privacy and safety of its youth while at school, and it had written the law to achieve that goal. He added that Idaho had also mandated a reasonable accommodation for students who feel they cannot follow the law.

Judge Nye described the case as difficult because both parties sought to “protect important individual rights” while “gender-inclusive policies are constitutional and sex-separate policies are constitutional.” The question before the court, he wrote, was what happens when those rights compete rather than co-exist.

The plaintiffs had argued the law was unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and their right to privacy. Idaho argued a similar defence, saying the law did not discriminate against the plaintiffs because the “common sense” law was based on what it termed biological sex. They further argued the law was protecting the privacy of students as well.

Judge Nye conceded that “this area of law (and societal policy) is evolving,” but his task was to rule only on the legality of the law after weighing the evidence presented by both sides. He ruled in favour of the state, saying: “The Court must stay in its lane. It cannot provide guidance on how elected officials should navigate these difficult situations. It can only decide whether the action they have taken withstands constitutional scrutiny.”

The state’s lawyers from Christian legal nonprofit Liberty Counsel declared it was a “commonsense decision.” The law firm’s founder Mat Staver declared: “The Idaho law is meant to protect children’s safety and privacy. It can be humiliating, demeaning and unsafe for children to be exposed to the opposite sex. Biology is fixed at birth, and children with gender confusion need counseling, not access to the private spaces of the opposite gender.”

The state passed the law in March, requiring that students in Idaho public schools use the facilities that correspond with their biological sex rather than their preferred gender identity. it included various exemptions, such as not applying to single-occupancy restrooms or rooms “conspicuously designated for unisex or family use; facilities that have been temporarily designated for use by that person’s biological sex; a person who enters a restroom or facility to render medical assistance; and when necessary, to prevent a serious threat to good order or student safety.”

“Every person has a natural right to privacy and safety in restrooms and changing facilities where such person might be in a partial or full state of undress in the presence of others. Requiring students to share restrooms and changing facilities with members of the opposite biological sex generates potential embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury to students, as well as increasing the likelihood of assault, voyeurism, and exhibitionism.”