Federal judge temporarily blocks Idaho’s transgender bathroom bill
(CN) — A federal judge in Idaho temporarily blocked the enforcement of an anti-transgender law, preventing a ban that would bar transgender students from using school restrooms and other facilities matching their gender identities across the state on Thursday.
The temporary restraining order against Senate Bill 1100 arrives just a week before Idaho students return to school and just over a month after it went into effect on July 1.
The bill, signed by Republican Governor Brad Little in March 2023, bans Idaho schools from allowing transgender students to use restrooms and changing facilities like locker rooms and shower rooms associated with the gender they identify with. The bill also allowed students to win a minimum of $5,000 per violation for reporting if they found a transgender student using a facility that matched their gender identity.
Six days after the law went into effect, a transgender seventh-grade student and an LGBTQ high school organization sued the Idaho State Board of Education along with several educational officials, claiming violations of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, Title IX and right to privacy.
In granting the plaintiffs’ temporary restraining order filed on July 28, Chief U.S. District Judge David C. Nye is not forcing Idaho school districts to adopt transgender-friendly policies regarding sex-separated facilities. The restraining order only maintains the state’s status quo — that being that some school districts already had policies separating bathroom usage, while others did not.
“Simply put, the status quo concerning bathroom usage in Idaho schools was diverse; but no law, no restriction, and no mandate dictated those policies,” Nye wrote in his order. “In other words, keeping the status quo at this stage is doing just that: leaving schools to their own devices without any input from the state of Idaho, and without any formal regulations one way or the other.”
Nye also wrote that the court neither found the law to be constitutional nor unconstitutional, and that the order was not a determination of any argument on the merits soon to be heard at a preliminary injunction hearing in September.
“The court is simply holding SB 1100 in abeyance and preserving the situation as it existed prior to the parties’ disagreement, which is that S.B. 1100 will not be in effect when school starts on August 16, 2023,” Nye wrote. “School districts may choose how to organize their bathrooms, changing facilities and overnight accommodations — whether that is sex-separate or transgender-inclusive; whether it is consistent with what it did last year or not. But the State of Idaho will not be mandating that decision at this time.”
Even so, the plaintiffs’ legal representation from Lambda Legal celebrated the decision.
“The court’s ruling will be a relief for transgender students in Idaho, who are entitled to basic dignity, safety, and respect at school. When school is back in session, they should be focusing on classes, friends, and activities like everyone else, rather than worrying about where they are allowed to use the restroom,” said Lambda Legal senior counsel Peter Renn, in a statement. “No one’s return to school should be met with a return to discrimination.”
In another statement, Lambda attorney Kell Olson noted that the lives of Idaho’s transgender youth are at stake and expressed relief that court “put this abhorrent law on hold.”
“Transgender youth are deserving of the privacy, respect and protections afforded to other students,” Olson added.