A Baltimore judge ruled that barring a transgender teen from using the boys’ locker room is tantamount to discrimination and “harms his health and well-being.”
According to The Washington Post, Max Brennan – a transgender boy from Maryland’s Eastern Shore – was offered an unusual sort of accommodation. Brennan, per district policy, had to change in a separate, gender-neutral restroom before gym class, rather than in an ordinary locker room.
The requirement, claimed Brennan’s attorneys, often forced him to choose between being late for class or being punished for improper attire.
U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III, writes the Post, is the latest judge to rule that transgender students are entitled to use locker- and washrooms matching their gender identity. Russell says the protection is encoded in federal and state law.
Russell claims the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution “protects Brennan from ‘discrimination on the basis of gender stereotypes,’” and because the school “policy classifies him on the basis of his transgender status, it constitutes ‘sex discrimination.’”
“M.A.B. has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, whose treatment requires ‘social transitioning,’” wrote Russell. “This includes accessing single-sex spaces, like locker rooms, that align with his gender identity.”
In his 40-page opinion, Russell denounced the school’s policy of barring Brennan from the boys’ locker room, saying it “does not apply to anyone else at the high school, and marks him as different for being transgender.” While the judge’s ruling doesn’t end the suit, it does allow the litigation to proceed.
Despite Russell’s apparent sympathy toward Brennan’s cause, he refused the boy’s request to block the district’s policy before the suit has been settled.
Since Brennan isn’t taking physical education this academic year, Russell says, any psychological harm which may befall the transgender boy isn’t “actual and imminent.”
The Hill reports that Brennan is planning to enroll in physical education courses next year.
Although any resolution is far from being a done deal, Brennan issued a statement celebrating Russell’s decision as progress.
“I am extremely happy with the court’s decision, and think it is a great step in the right direction,” he said. “I am hopeful that this case will not only help change policy for the better, but help the students who are bound to come after me.”
Countering opponents who may condemn the opinion and its implications, Russell said courts have every right to halt the enactment of federal and state laws which run afoul of the Constitution. He gave the example of another judge – also from Baltimore – who placed an injunction on the Trump administration’s order to bar transgender individuals from serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Brennan’s case was brought into court by FreeState Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Maryland. FreeState attorney Jennifer Kent said she hoped the ruling would rattle some sense into the Talbot County School Board.
“School systems in Maryland should know the law and should be protecting students who are transgender from discrimination,” said Kent, “not singling them out for separate and unequal treatment.”