Three transgender high school students, all minors, are suing the Oklahoma Education Department over enforcement of the state’s “bathroom bill.”
Oklahoma Senate Bill 615 was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt in May. It requires all restrooms or changing rooms in Oklahoma public schools to be designated exclusively based on biological sex.
The bill requires each school to provide a reasonable accommodation — a single-occupancy restroom or changing area — to anyone who does not wish to use the restroom designated for their biological sex.
Additionally, the legislation requires district boards of education to enforce disciplinary action for school districts that refuse to comply with the law. School districts or charter schools that are not in compliance will have their state funding reduced by five percent the following year.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Oklahoma.
In their complaint, lawyers representing the students allege that the new law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, by “discriminating on the basis of sex, gender identity, and transgender status.”
“Oklahoma has launched another cruel and unconstitutional attack on a most-vulnerable population – transgender school children,” Nicholas Guillory, Staff Attorney and Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow at Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “This is not the first such attack on transgender schoolchildren, and sadly it will likely not be the last. It is sad that anti-transgender state legislators nationwide keep singling out transgender students for harmful, discriminatory treatment, notwithstanding that we and our allies have successfully quashed these efforts wherever they have popped up.”
One of the plaintiffs, Andy Bridge, said in a statement, “I am a boy, and while living authentically hasn’t always been easy, it’s given me a sense of relief and happiness. Being able to use the boys’ restroom might seem like a small thing to others, but it is a vital step in my transition. Being barred from using it leaves me singled out and excluded from the rest of my friends and classmates, but also feeling like I’m being told that I’m not worthy of the same respect and dignity as everyone else.”
The lawsuit names the Department of Education, members of the state Board of Education, four Oklahoma school districts, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, and Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor.
Republican lawmakers have argued that the bill protects children’s privacy.
“We must not allow the shrills of the far left to replace facts of biological science and irrefutable evidence,” Sen. David Bullard, who introduced the legislation, said in a statement when the bill was signed into law. “As John Adams said, ‘Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.’ The fact is there are only two sexes, male and female. Our kids deserve and demand privacy and protection; and in Oklahoma, they will now get it.”
Sen. Bullard added that we are “willing to fail our kids” by making them live in “someone else’s fantasy.”
“Each individual state oversees education as reserved by the 10th Amendment and our nation’s Constitution. We are responsible for protecting the freedom of all students, not just a few,” Bullard said. “How far have we slipped in our society when we are willing to fail our kids by coercing them into living in someone else’s fantasy. I am dedicated to removing all forms of indoctrination, including this one.”
Following Gov. Stitt signing the bill, Attorney General O’Connor issued a statement saying that he was ready to defend it from legal challenges.
“The Legislature has rightly recognized in the past that people have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in locker rooms, dressing rooms, and bathrooms,” said Attorney General O’Connor. “Senate Bill 615 is just an application of that basic truth to the public school context. Nothing can be more reasonable than insisting that a child be allowed to use bathroom facilities or change clothes without the threat of intrusion by a person of the opposite sex.”
The statement said that the Attorney General had “been working vigorously on this issue for months.”
“Oklahoma schools are not required by any court decision to ignore biology when designating restrooms,” the Attorney General said. “To be sure, the Biden Administration has been saber-rattling on this issue for quite some time, as did the Obama Administration. But we have already begun pushing back on Biden’s threats of outrageous federal overreach here, and we will continue to do so in defense of Oklahomans and Oklahoma children.”