In a surprisingly sudden victory for transgender students, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled Thursday in favor of upholding a Pennsylvania school’s inclusive policy. The unanimous decision came within about an hour of oral arguments concluding because the Court wanted to offer a ruling before the school year ended.
Boyertown Area School District, located in southeastern Pennsylvania, had instituted a policy respecting transgender students’ identities, including allowing them to use facilities that match their gender identities. But last year, a group of anonymous families, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an anti-LGBTQ hate group, sued to overturn the policy. They argued that letting transgender students use the restrooms somehow infringed on the privacy of other students.
In September, a lower court judge rejected ADF’s request for a preliminary injunction suspending the policy. District Judge Edward G. Smith, an Obama appointee, dismissed ADF’s arguments that these students were somehow traumatized by the mere existence of their transgender classmates.
After hearing oral arguments Thursday morning, the appeals court circuit unanimously agreed with the lower court after barely an hour of deliberation.
The ACLU of PA celebrated the quick ruling.
The ACLU’s Ria Mar reacts to the Third Circuit in Philly upholding the Boyertown school district’s policy allowing students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender. pic.twitter.com/s65EkwlqWA
— Bobby Allyn (@BobbyAllyn) May 24, 2018
Aiden DeStefano, who graduated from Boyertown High School last year and helped fight back against the lawsuit, also praised the ruling, noting that he was one of the first openly trans students to graduate from the school and that he hopes the victory helps pave the way for others.
ADF has already indicated that the families may appeal, which could bring the issue to the Supreme Court.
Part of ADF’s media campaign around Thursday’s oral arguments was releasing a video in which one of the student plaintiffs identified herself and her reasons for joining the suit. The video is full of misrepresentations about the policy and rejecting language about transgender people, including claiming that the school “granted students access to use the locker rooms and restrooms of the opposite sex.” Transgender students are repeatedly misgendered throughout the video.
The student, Alexis Lightcap, also spoke at a live press conference after the decision came down where she continued to reject the legitimacy of her transgender classmates’ identities. “It’s common sense that boys [sic] shouldn’t be in girls’ locker rooms, restrooms, and shower areas,” she said. “Every student matters, and a school should put our privacy, safety, and dignity first.”
Though ADF claims that the law is on its side, the hate group is increasingly losing its fight against transgender students. Federal courts in Wisconsin, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia have all ruled against ADF when it defended schools that implemented policies discriminating against transgender students.