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Oklahoma Students Sue Over Anti-Trans School Restroom Law

Three transgender students and their families are suing the state of Oklahoma over its anti-trans school restroom law.

The suit, Bridge v. Oklahoma State Department of Education, was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. It contends that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by discriminating on the basis of sex, gender identity, and transgender status. 

Senate Bill 615, passed by the Oklahoma legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt in May, requires students in public schools and public charter schools to use the multiple-occupancy restrooms and other facilities designated for the gender they were assigned at birth. It further requires each school board and charter school governing board to create a policy to discipline those who violate the restriction and requires the Oklahoma State Department of Education to penalize schools that do not comply with the law with a 5 percent reduction in state funding.

The students — Andrew Bridge and two identified by pseudonyms, Mark Miles and Sarah Stiles — and their families are represented by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union. the ACLU of Oklahoma, and the law firm of Covington & Burling. The named defendants are the Oklahoma State Department of Education, members of the Oklahoma Board of Education, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, and several school districts. The suit seeks to block the law’s enforcement while the case is heard in addition to striking it down permanently.

“Oklahoma has launched another cruel and unconstitutional attack on a most-vulnerable population — transgender school children,” Nicholas Guillory, Lambda Legal staff attorney and Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, said in a press release. “This is not the first such attack on transgender schoolchildren, and sadly it will likely not be the last. It is sad that anti-transgender state legislators nationwide keep singling out transgender students for harmful, discriminatory treatment, notwithstanding that we and our allies have successfully quashed these efforts wherever they have popped up.”

“There is no valid reason to prohibit transgender students from using the same facilities as their peers,” added Jon Davidson, senior staff attorney at the ACLU. “Doing so is stigmatizing and damaging. It interferes with their ability to learn at school and can lead to physical harms as well. No problems have arisen in schools that allow transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender. It is time for politicians to stop using young people who are transgender as a wedge issue for political gain.”

“Transgender students live and go to school in our state. They use public facilities just like everyone else, and their presence harms no one,” said Hanna Roberts, ACLU of Oklahoma staff attorney. “But this election year has been overrun with attacks on our youth and their ability to feel safe while receiving an inclusive education. Transgender people are part of our families, our workplaces, and our neighborhoods, and they, like everyone else, need to be able to safely access restrooms. Not only does promoting these baseless fears for political gain put our most vulnerable students at risk, but it also sends the message that they are not worthy of a full life. With this case, we hope to make clear that trans students belong.” 

“I am a boy, and while living authentically hasn’t always been easy, it’s given me a sense of relief and happiness,” plaintiff Andrew Bridge said in the release. “Being able to use the boys’ restroom might seem like a small thing to others, but it is a vital step in my transition. Being barred from using it leaves me singled out and excluded from the rest of my friends and classmates, but also feeling like I’m being told that I’m not worthy of the same respect and dignity as everyone else.”

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