Metro Weekly

Idaho’s Trans Restroom Ban Blocked by Appeal Court

A federal appeals court has blocked an Idaho law requiring transgender students to only use restrooms matching their assigned sex at birth.

Restroom sign – Photo: Robert Thiemann, via Unsplash

A federal appeals court blocked an Idaho law that prohibits transgender individuals from using restroom facilities that match their gender identity.

The law, which Gov. Brad Little signed in March, prohibits any student from entering a restroom not designated for their assigned sex at birth.

The law defines sex based on “the immutable biological and physiological characteristics, specifically the chromosomes and internal and external reproductive anatomy” of a person.

Under the law, any cisgender student who encounters a transgender individual in the “wrong” restroom may file a civil lawsuit against the school for damages as high as $5,000 per incident. 

The law was challenged by Rebecca Roe, a transgender student who claimed it violated her right to equal protection under the law and her right to privacy.

Roe also claimed the law discriminated against her on the basis of sex, in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. 

Back in August, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho granted a preliminary injunction to block the law from being enforced.

But U.S. District Judge David Nye later ruled, on October 12, that Roe was unlikely to win on the merits of her claims, because the law makes distinctions based on sex, not gender identity.

Nye also found that the law was substantially related to the government’s interest in protecting the privacy and safety of cisgender students who don’t wish to share facilities with those of the opposite biological sex while engaged in personal or private functions.

Nye also expressed skepticism over Roe’s Title IX claims, noting that the law allows sex-separate facilities. He notified the parties in the lawsuit that the law would take effect when his preliminary injunction expires on November 2.

Roe subsequently filed for a preliminary injunction with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the law violates her constitutional rights and causes “irreparable harm” to transgender people.

In a 2-1 decision, the 9th Circuit sided with Roe, agreeing to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the law from being enforced while it determines whether Roe’s constitutional claims have merit.

The appeals court has previously ruled that an Oregon school district was within its rights and did not violate federal law when it allowed a transgender student to use gender-affirming restroom and locker room facilities.

The 9th Circuit also previously blocked an Idaho law barring transgender athletes from competing on female-designated sports teams on the grounds that the policy may violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Three similar laws, from West Virginia, Arizona, and Utah, have also been temporarily blocked from being enforced by court orders.

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!