By BRETT DAVIS | THE CENTER SQUARE
A coalition of 21 Democratic attorneys general, led by Washington state’s Bob Ferguson and New York’s Letitia James, have filed a brief seeking to block an Idaho law that prohibits transgender students from using public school restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.
Idaho has a Republican trifecta, with the Republican Party controlling the office of governor and both chambers of the state Legislature
This summer, a lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of Boise High School’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance, and Rebecca Roe, a seventh-grade transgender high school senior who is using the moniker to protect her identity. The lawsuit sought to keep Idaho school officials from enforcing Senate Bill 1100, which also allows students to sue schools for $5,000 or more for each instance where they encounter a transgender student in a facility barred by law, according to a Thursday news release from Ferguson’s office.
Last month, federal Judge David Nye denied a request for a preliminary injunction against Idaho school officials to keep them from enforcing the law.
In response, the plaintiffs asked Nye to put his order on hold while they appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. At the same time, they asked the 9th Circuit to stay the order, which it did on Oct. 26.
“Allowing students to use bathrooms and changing rooms that correspond with their gender identity helps them feel accepted and does not pose a threat to anyone,” Ferguson said in the news release. “In Washington, where the rights of transgender students are protected, public schools report no instances of transgender students harassing others in bathrooms or locker rooms. In contrast, the evidence is overwhelming that prohibiting students from using facilities that correspond to their gender identity causes them very real physical, emotional and mental harm.”
Neighboring Washington is going in the opposite direction of Idaho in terms of transgender issues.
The state’s anti-discrimination law, known as the Washington Law Against Discrimination, explicitly prohibits discrimination because of “gender expression or identity,” including actual or perceived identity.
The Washington State Human Rights Commission, the state agency responsible for enforcing the WLAD, issued regulations in 2015 clarifying that the WLAD protects the right of transgender individuals to use restrooms and other gender-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity.
In 2021, Washington’s Democratic-controlled Legislature passed a bill – later signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee – that requires insurers to cover gender-affirming surgeries that are prescribed by a person’s doctor and deemed medically necessary.
During this year’s session, lawmakers passed a bill that expands an existing law that allows organizations providing services to unsheltered youth to delay notifying a parent or guardian if there is a compelling reason – such as abuse or neglect – not to inform a parent or guardian. Inslee signed the bill into law.
The law adds gender-affirming treatment – therapy to, in rare cases, surgery – to the reasons youth can seek protected healthcare services.
According to a June 2022 study by the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, there are more than 33,000 people ages 13 and older in Washington who identify as transgender. The Evergreen State has a total population of more than 7.7 million people.
Attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, D.C. joined the brief.