Court blocks Idaho law restricting trans students’ restroom use

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) -A federal judge temporarily blocked an Idaho law requiring public school students to use the restroom corresponding to their assigned sex at birth, in a lawsuit brought by the family of a transgender middle school student.

U.S. District Judge David Nye said his temporary restraining order Thursday did not weigh on the merits of the case, but said preserving the status quo at least until he could consider it more fully at a Sept. 13 hearing was “the most fitting approach at the current juncture.”

“The court’s ruling will be a relief for transgender students in Idaho, who are entitled to basic dignity, safety, and respect at school,” Peter Renn of Lambda Legal, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

The office of Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador said in a statement it looked forward to making its case at the upcoming hearing.

The student’s family, under the pseudonym Rebecca Roe, and a student association sued the state last month. They said the state law, signed by Republican Governor Brad Little in March, illegally discriminates on the basis of gender identity and violates students’ right to privacy.

Republican-led states have passed numerous bills targeting transgender youth in the last two years, including what are called “bathroom bills” like Idaho’s, and bans on gender-affirming medical treatments for minors.

Idaho’s bathroom bill allows students to sue schools for $5,000 if they encounter a transgender student in a bathroom the law forbids. That effectively puts a “bounty” on transgender students and encourages others to search them out, the lawsuit said.

The new law says schools must provide a “reasonable accommodation” for transgender students unwilling or unable to use their assigned bathroom. The lawsuit alleges such alternate accommodations are “often inferior to the facilities used by others, located in less accessible locations, and stigmatizing for them to use.”

Federal courts have been divided on school policies requiring transgender students to use the restroom corresponding to their birth sex, with the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finding a Virginia school’s policy illegal, and the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit upholding one in a Florida school.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Chris Reese)