By Brendan Pierson
(Reuters) -A federal judge has allowed an Idaho law requiring public-school students to use the bathroom corresponding to their assigned sex at birth to take effect, while also allowing a challenge to the law by the family of a transgender student to continue.
U.S. District Judge David Nye found on Thursday that his court is “not a policy-making body” and must defer to the state’s legislature, at least for now. Nye, who was appointed by Republican former President Donald Trump, had in August issued a temporary order blocking the law.
Although Nye declined to continue blocking the law while the lawsuit proceeds, he denied the state’s bid to dismiss the case altogether. A final judgment will come only after more evidence is presented to the court.
“This ruling puts transgender students directly in harm’s way by stigmatizing them as outsiders in their own communities and depriving them of the basic ability to go about their school day like everyone else,” said Peter Renn, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, which represents the family.
Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador called the ruling a “significant win” and said the law was “designed to protect students.”
The family of the student, who is using the pseudonym Rebecca Roe, and a student association sued the state in July. 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.
Idaho’s bathroom bill allows students to sue schools for $5,000 if they encounter a transgender student in a bathroom in violation of the law.
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 Alexia Garamfalvi, Matthew Lewis and David Gregorio)