Flickr: Ted Eytan
Flickr: Ted Eytan

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Florida-based school board’s anti-trans bathroom ban.

Back in 2017, a trans man by the name of Drew Adams sued the St. Johns County School Board after he was banned from using the men’s toilets while attending Allen D Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach. 

In the legal filing, the former student accused the board of violating Title IX – which protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. 

In 2018, US District Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled in favour of the former student (per the Tampa Bay Times).

A panel from the 11th US Court of Appeals also agreed that Adams’ rights were violated with a 2-1 vote in 2020.

Despite the aforementioned rulings, the full appeals court took on the case – which resulted in them upholding the school board’s anti-trans regulations by a 7-4 vote. 

In the majority opinion, released on 30 December, circuit judge Barbara Lagoa stated that the policy “advances the important governmental objective of protecting students’ privacy in school bathrooms.” 

The Trump-appointed judge also wrote that the school board’s anti-trans ban does not violate Title XI because it was based on the “plain and ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ in 1972” when the law was initially implemented. 

Shortly after the ruling was announced, Adams’ Lambda Legal affiliated lawyer Tara Borelli slammed the court’s decision in a statement to Reuters.

“This is an aberrant ruling that contradicts the rulings of every other circuit to consider the question across the country,” Borelli said. “We will be reviewing and evaluating this dangerous decision over the weekend.” 

Judge Jill Pryor, who was part of the four opposing votes, also questioned Logoa and the six other Republican-appointed judges in a separate dissenting opinion.

“Our law, both constitutional law and statutes and regulations, recognises a legitimate, protectable privacy interest in the practice of separating bathroom facilities by sex,” Pryor wrote. 

“But that interest is not absolute: it must coexist alongside fundamental principles of equality. Where exclusion implies inferiority, as it does here, principles of equality prevail.” 

Pryor added that the majority opinion backs “stereotypic ideas and assumptions in an attempt to persuade readers that admitting transgender students into bathrooms corresponding with their consistent, persistent, and insistent biological gender identity will result in the elimination of sex-separated bathroom facilities.” 

Over the last few years, an array of states across the US have either introduced or implemented anti-trans bathroom policies. 

Back in May, Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt a bill requiring students to use restrooms that reflect the gender on their original birth certificates.

A year prior, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a similar bill into law – which was later challenged by a parent of a trans child in August.