Is Oklahoma’s new ‘bathroom bill’ a violation of the U.S. Constitution?

Three transgender students sue the Oklahoma Education Department over the state's new bathroom bill, which forces students to use their birth-given sex when choosing a restroom.

“Being able to use the boys’ restroom might seem like a small thing to others, but it is a vital step in my transition.”

So said Andrew Bridge, one of the three Oklahoma minors suing in response to the state’s new single-sex restroom law, in a statement.

LGBTQ+ freedoms in schools are shrinking in several states. Florida schools are entering their first year under Ron DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education law, otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. For one district, the legislation has created some major headaches. The Miami-Dade School Board voted to reject LGBTQ history month to avoid violating the new law. According to the board’s attorney, the decision holds solid legal footing.

For Bridge, restricting his freedom to enter the bathroom of his choice is a jab at his individuality. “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.”

The bill, introduced in April, requires students to use bathrooms that align with their biological sex at birth. North Carolina was the first state to pass a similar law in 2016, but it restricted restroom access in public buildings. Ultimately, it cost the states billions in lost jobs and revenue and was later blocked in court.

According to Republican state Rep. Kevin West, the bill is a no-brainer. “This is common-sense legislation that gives our public school districts clear guidance on bathroom policies,” West said in a statement. “We currently have a school district in our state that has asked for clarity on this issue, and we have parents that want to protect their children.”


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The narrative, however, is different for the three students who feel targeted by the legislation. According to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oklahoma, the new law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and Title IX, which has been an important focus for the Biden-Harris administration as they’ve proposed to expand sex-discrimination protections in June.

“Oklahoma has launched another cruel and unconstitutional attack on a most-vulnerable population — transgender school children,” said Nicholas Guillory, staff attorney, and Tyron Garner, a memorial law fellow at Lambda Legal, who are representing the students. “This is not the first such attack on transgender schoolchildren, and sadly it will likely not be the last.”

 

Bridge, a 16-year-old senior at Noble High School, used the school’s boy’s restrooms without resistance last year, according to the lawsuit. However, he and his mother were told by school officials before school commenced that he would have to comply with the new law because he is transgender.

“If Andy persisted in using the boys’ restroom after being counseled to use other restrooms, he would be subject to further discipline,” the lawsuit writes. “At the end of the conversation, both Andy and his mother made it clear that Andy planned to continue using the boys’ restroom this school year.”

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttp://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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