Minnesota Court Issues Stunning Ruling Against School District on Sex-Separated Locker Rooms

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If a ruling in a Minnesota appeals court stands, schools across the Gopher State will be forced to allow students who identify as transgender to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.

According to The Christian Post, the case involved a student known only as N.H., a biological female who identifies as male. A swimmer, she wanted to use the male facilities in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

In a decision Monday, Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Peter Reyes wrote in the majority opinion that since N.H. had “socially transitioned,” the student should be able to use facilities designed for males.

“Social transitioning” involves identifying as a different gender and changing one’s appearance to fit that gender without medical procedures, according to Beyond Gender, a website for transgender issues.

“N.H. identifies as male, has socially transitioned to male, and lives as male. Others also identify him as male and treat him as male,” wrote Reyes, who was appointed to the bench in 2014 by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

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“Based on this record, we conclude that N.H. is similarly situated to his peers because he, like his peers, sought to use a locker room that corresponded with his gender identity.”

The ruling cited the Minnesota Human Rights Act — which, according to the state’s website, is “one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country.”

“The Minnesota Human Rights Act protects the civil rights of Minnesotans in employment, housing, public accommodations, public services, education, credit, and business based on their protected class, such as: race, religion, disability, national origin, sex, marital status, familial status, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

According to Reyes’ Monday decision, this includes bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools.

Do transgender students have the right to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice?

“A transgender high-school student who is denied use of a locker room that is available to students of the gender with which the student identifies and to which the student has socially transitioned states a claim upon which relief can be granted of sexual-orientation discrimination …,” the ruling read.

The ruling noted that the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which had joined the lawsuit on behalf of N.H., argued that “students should not be required to ‘shop’ among schools and districts to obtain a discrimination-free education,” since schools “play a pivotal role in a young person’s development and intellectual, mental, and emotional health.”

The state agency welcomed the ruling.

“This decision means that schools are now safer and more welcoming for transgender and gender nonconforming students across Minnesota,” Human Rights Deputy deputy commissioner Irina Vaynerman said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, both the Anoka-Hennepin School District and Johnson based their defense on a 2001 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling which found employers that designate single-sex facilities didn’t violate the human rights act.

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The legal team representing N.H., meanwhile, focused on a provision in the human rights act that barred discrimination in educational settings. That interpretation won out.

The decision is far from final, mind you. However, it’s a major blow to the Anoka-Hennepin School District, which had argued a lower court had erred when it didn’t dismiss the case. The court disagreed, obviously. The district is considering its next steps, which could include appealing the decision, settling or taking the case to trial, according to the AP.

“The district’s top priority is maintaining a learning environment that is safe, secure, and free from discrimination, and its decision will be guided by those values,” said Anoka-Hennepin School District spokesman Jim Skelly.

The problem with the decision can be glimpsed in the dissent written by Judge Matthew Johnson, who wrote that N.H. wasn’t  “similarly situated in all relevant aspects” to her peers.

“The anatomical differences between transgender boys and cisgender boys are relevant for the obvious reason that they are visible when boys shower or change clothes in shared spaces,” he wrote.

This isn’t about discriminating against N.H. because she has anatomical features that are different from the gender she identifies as. It has everything to do with the school’s role to act in loco parentis and to realize the potential dangers shared locker rooms create.

That’s not N.H.’s fault, of course, but the role of schools is to minimize danger to students. No bathroom or locker-room environment is risk-free, no matter what the gender composition is. That said, it’s hardly a logical long-jump to assume the risks increase greatly when single-sex facilities become unisex because of court rulings regarding transgender students.

This isn’t a matter of victim-blaming, either. It’s a matter of assessing risk and acting accordingly.

A ruling that allows a supposedly male student with a female’s body into a boys locker room will just as easily put supposedly female students with male bodies into girls locker rooms. Teenage girls forced to undress in the same room as teenage boys. Even liberals can see the problems that will inevitably arise.

Locker rooms and restrooms are designated to be used by a certain sex for a reason, and that reason has nothing to do with prejudice or ignorance. The Minnesota Supreme Court has already ruled (and wisely) on this in 2001. That ought to be the pole star in this situation — not modish views that could put all students in danger.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal for four years.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal for four years. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture