Oregon judge rules that schools must allow boys in the girls' locker rooms

Here we go again, with another court case which could have been ripped from the headlines in dozens of other cities around the country over the past several years. But as you’ll see below, this one has at least a bit of a twist. The subject at hand is a ruling from Oregon federal District Judge Marco A. Hernández in a case involving a school which decided to allow so-called transgender children to use the bathrooms, locker rooms and showers of the opposite gender. A group of concerned parents took the school district to court, but Hernandez brought the hammer down against them. (NY Times)

A federal judge in Oregon issued a ruling this week in favor of transgender students, saying that forcing them to use restrooms that correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth would violate civil rights law.

In a 56-page opinion released Tuesday, Judge Marco A. Hernández of Federal District Court in Portland said that transgender students should be allowed to use bathrooms that match the gender they identify with. The ruling upheld the policy of a school district in Dallas, Ore., that allowed a male transgender student to use the boys’ restrooms, showers and locker rooms.

The judge dismissed claims by some students and parents saying that other male students experienced “embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, intimidation, fear, apprehension and stress produced by using the restroom with students of the opposite sex.”

Hernández, an Obama appointee, took the same position we’ve seen in too many (but not all) of these cases, further demonstrating a need for some final clarity from the Supreme Court. But there was one interesting difference in this case, at least from a technical perspective. As Doug Mataconis points out at Outside the Beltway, most of the previous cases along these lines have involved suits brought by transgender students against schools which maintained normal privacy routines. This was a school already adopting gender-bending rules of behavior which was being sued by the parents.

The present case is somewhat different from many of these previous cases in that, rather than involving a challenge by a transgender student to a policy that barred them from using the restroom facility that matched their gender identity, it deals with a challenge by a group of parents and community groups challenging a school policy that recognized the rights of transgender students to use the restroom facilities that correspond to their gender identity. In their lawsuit, these parents claimed that this policy was unconstitutional and in violation of existing laws based on a number of claims ranging from violations of a “right to privacy” to religious liberty claims and a number of other arguments.

It didn’t change the outcome in this case, but if more of them like this one are brought in districts where you’re less likely to run into a decidedly liberal, progressive judge, we could see judgments going in the other direction. A more robust case could be made for traditional values, privacy and the rights of parents. And if we have conflicting decisions in a number of states, that might prompt the Supreme Court to take up the real, underlying question here.

We need to find out if there is still enough common sense left in our legal system to allow the courts to reject this warped interpretation of what has long been recognized as a psychological aberration. With the exception of those born with damaged chromosomal structures, we have two genders, and as a societal convention, we’ve always recognized certain levels of privacy for each in these scenarios.

Simply declaring that you “feel like” or even sincerely believe that you are the opposite gender from what you clearly are does not merit placing a burden on the other 99.9% of society. Medical science has dealt with many problems faced by individuals who may sincerely believe something about themselves which is patently not true and can be readily identified by even casual medical examination and diagnosis. (When a murderer tells the court that the neighbor’s dog gives him orders to kill we don’t issue a subpoena for the dog.) Hopefully SCOTUS can still muster the common sense and decency to stand up for traditional privacy rights, centuries of proven medical science and simple common sense. If not, we’re heading quickly toward a dystopian future normally only seen in certain Luke Wilson films.