Supreme Court allows Pennsylvania transgender bathroom policy to go into effect

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up a challenge to a transgender bathroom policy for a Pennsylvania school district, allowing it to go into effect.

The court's unsigned order means that students in the Boyertown district will be allowed to use the bathroom or locker room aligned with their gender identity.

The Boyertown policy allows for transgender students to use those facilities on a case-by-case basis.

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The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in 2018 to uphold the transgender bathroom policy, and the court's order Tuesday leaves that decision in place.

A group of unnamed current and former students had challenged the policy, claiming that it violated their right to privacy under the 14th Amendment and infringed on the federal anti-discrimination law Title IX. They were represented by the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.

But the lower court ruling found that policies not allowing for transgender students to use facilities corresponding to their gender identity could cause more harm to the transgender individuals.

"When transgender students face discrimination in schools, the risk to their wellbeing cannot be overstated — indeed, it can be life threatening," the lower court opinion stated.

The Trump administration in 2017 rescinded guidance issued by the Obama administration that directed schools to let students use facilities that best aligned with their gender identities.

Tuesday's order does not set a national legal precedent on transgender bathroom policies.

Ria Tabacco Mar, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) LGBT & HIV Project, called Tuesday's order "an enormous victory for transgender students across the country."

"Today’s announcement allows schools to move forward with policies that support transgender students. But our work is far from over. We will continue to defend the transgender community from attacks in the courts, the legislatures, and the White House," Tabacco Mar said in a statement.

Aidan DeStefano, who recently graduated from Boyertown High School and is transgender, also celebrated the decision in a statement provided by the ACLU.

"I felt like I belonged and had the confidence I needed to continue with my education" over the policies allowing him to use the boys' bathroom and participate on the boys' cross country team," DeStefano said. "I’m glad the Supreme Court is allowing schools like mine to continue supporting transgender students.”

Updated at 11:49 a.m.