The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday in court filings said the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prohibits discrimination against Transgender minors, signaling that states that pass laws intended to single out transgender youth, as Alabama has done, will face federal scrutiny in courts.
The DOJ filed statements of interest in lawsuits levied by the ACLU in Arkansas, against a law there that that bans transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming medical care, and a lawsuit in West Virginia challenging a law in that state that prohibits transgender youth from playing sports that match their gender identities.
The DOJ’s filing also came the day after the U.S. Department of Education announced the rights of gay and transgender students are protected by Title IX, the landmark federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools that receive federal money.
Alabama lawmakers in April approved a bill that bans transgender athletes in K-12 public schools from competing in the sports of the gender with which they identify. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the legislation into law on April 24.
A bill that would have banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth failed to make it to the floor of the Alabama House on the last day of the Legislative session this year, but had passed the state Senate in a 21-4 vote.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate debated both bills at length, with supports of the bills arguing transgender youth shouldn’t receive such medical care, and allowing them to play in sports is unfair to the other students.
Opponent of the legislation decried the bills as discriminatory, and place trasnegder youth at greater risk of suicide. They also warned that if passed, both laws would likely not survive costly lawsuits, which would very likely be filed.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama and the New York City-based law firm Lambda Legal in April announced the groups would swiftly sue if Alabama passed the bill to ban transgender medical care.
The DOJ in its filing in the West Virginia case wrote that the state’s law banning girls who are trasngender from playing in single-sex sports restricted to girls runs afoul of the Equal Protection Clause.
“To be sure, there remain significant barriers to providing full equity in athletics for female students. But permitting participation by transgender girls, who make up “approximately one half of one percent” of the United States’ population, is not one of them,” The DOJ wrote to the court.
Kaitlin Welborn, staff attorney with the ACLU of Alabama, in a statement to APR on Thursday said the DOJ’s court filings Thursday send a powerful message that discrimination against transgender youth “is not just wrong, it is also plainly unconstitutional.”
“These filings from the Department of Justice confirm what we have been telling legislatures all year: Banning trans youth from sports and denying trans youth health care violates the Constitution and federal law,” Welborn said. “We hope that state legislatures finally get the message. A recent announcement from the Department of Education that affirmed transgender students were protected under Title IX also means that any school in Alabama that prevents a transgender student from participating in athletics would be violating federal law and should file a complaint with the Department of Education.”