Tomorrow, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals will hear an important case about whether transgender students can safely attend school.
The case, Doe v. Boyertown, was brought by a student under the pseudonym Joel Doe. Doe attends the Boyertown Area School District in Pennsylvania, which allows transgender students to use facilities that match their gender identity. Doe is arguing that his school should be required to ban transgender male students from using the same school facilities—like restrooms and locker rooms—as other male students.
Schools are well-equipped to manage the different needs of students in these settings—and they’ve shown they can provide additional privacy for students who want it, while also ensuring that transgender students can access facilities consistent with their gender identity. Excluding transgender students from school facilities that match their gender identity is humiliating, discriminatory, and adds to the bullying and mistreatment that far too many transgender students already face. If transgender students cannot safely access a restroom, they cannot safely attend school.
According to GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey, transgender students who experience exclusion and discrimination are more likely to miss school than other students. The survey also showed that 75% of transgender students felt unsafe at school, and 70% report avoiding bathrooms at school. MAP’s 2017 report, Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth & School Facilities, further illustrates the significant hostility, discrimination, and bullying that transgender youth face in schools around the country. It also highlights the lack of explicit policy protections for transgender students in most states. (For more on the state of LGBT protections in schools around the country, see MAP’s Safe Schools Laws Equality Map.)
School policies should protect students from bullying and isolation; they shouldn’t promote it. And, a growing number of courts agree that Title IX’s ban on sex-based discrimination in education means that transgender students’ rights must also be protected. Specifically, transgender students must be allowed to use facilities that match their gender identity.
Transgender students, like other students—and like all of us—care about safety and privacy in places like restrooms and locker rooms. Every student also deserves a fair chance to succeed in school and prepare for their future—including students who are transgender.
Imagine an adoption agency keeping a child in a group home despite having a qualified and loving relative willing to adopt them simply because that relative is gay. Now imagine a counselor refusing to offer therapy to a transgender teen in care. Or a child welfare agency turning away a loving, qualified Jewish couple because they are Jewish?
Sound alarmist? It happened in South Carolina and the governor responded by putting the agency’s beliefs over the best interests of vulnerable children the agency. And, governors in two states (Oklahoma and Kansas) just signed laws allowing this to happen. These bills are the first anti-LGBT bills signed this legislative session, and are part of a greater trend to exploit vulnerable children in need of loving homes for political gain.
The reality is that these agencies are receiving taxpayer dollars while continuing to discriminate against children and families. Across the country, nine states have passed these license to discriminate laws that allow adoption and foster care agencies to make decisions for children in their care based on religious beliefs rather than on the best interests of the child.
These laws can hurt kids. Laws like these mean:
- An agency could refuse to place a child with qualified parents in a loving, forever home, simply because those parents don’t meet the religious litmus test of the agency.
- An agency could refuse to allow an orphaned child to be adopted by an extended family member like a gay uncle or a lesbian grandparent.
- An agency could refuse to place LGBT youth with accepting parents, but could instead place them with parents who intend to force them into harmful conversion therapy.
- An agency could decide to keep a child in a government group home rather than place them with a loving, qualified couple who don’t share the agency’s religious beliefs.
In September 2017, MAP authored a report Kids Pay the Price: How Religious Exemptions for Child Welfare Agencies Harm Children which found that there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States, over 111,000 of whom are awaiting adoption. Of those children, 53% had been waiting more than two years for a permanent home. Yet adoption discrimination laws protect workers and agencies who reject LGBT and other qualified parents simply because those parents fail to meet the religious criteria imposed by the agency, forcing children to pay the price of discrimination.
MAP is working with advocates on the ground to defeat these bills with ads, strategic, research-based messaging guidance and in-depth policy resources. For more information about MAP’s work to protect children from these dangerous bills, visit www.lgbtmap.org/adoption
Child welfare agencies should put kids first, always. But these kinds of harmful laws give child services workers a license to discriminate and deny children the loving, forever homes they need.
North Carolina’s HB2 was a terrible bill for many reasons. Not only did it ban transgender people from accessing restrooms, it also prevented local cities from (1) protecting their residents from discrimination and (2) from raising the local minimum wage. How?
The state legislature reversed a local law protecting LGBT people and prevented any other city in the state from protecting LGBT people or raising the minimum wage, through a tactic called “preemption.” This tactic is part of an increasingly common strategy by state legislatures throughout the country to limit local progress on a wide range of issues, from the minimum wage and paid leave to pro-immigrant policies and LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances. Although the reasoning behind current state preemption efforts can vary, the impact remains the same: tying the hands of local lawmakers and preventing them from providing the protections they know match their residents’ values and are needed in their communities.
MAP’s latest report, The Power of State Preemption: Preventing Progress and Threatening Equality, shows the spread and impact of these efforts, both across the country and across a wide range of issues including LGBT equality. This report was developed in partnership with A Better Balance, Equality Federation, Family Values @ Work, and the Local Solutions Support Center.
In the absence of state leadership to protect LGBT people from discrimination, local ordinances have been instrumental stepping stones toward statewide nondiscrimination protections. Yet, anti-LGBT activists have leveraged preemption efforts to target LGBT equality in at least two key ways: hindering local nondiscrimination ordinances (often by targeting transgender people and restricting restroom access), and preventing cities from banning harmful conversion therapy practices used against LGBT youth.
However, state preemption isn’t only an LGBT issue. More than 20 states have preemption laws that prevent cities from increasing their local minimum wage or from guaranteeing local workers paid sick leave. Nine states forbid cities from passing sanctuary city ordinances or taking other similar measures to protect their immigrant residents–and in 2017 alone, 33 more states considered similar bills preventing pro-immigrant policies. When preemption is used in this way–to set a maximum rather than minimum level of protections–there are drastic consequences for cities and states alike, including:
- Leaving residents open to discrimination
- Placing special interests and profits over local residents
- Hurting workers, and especially low-income communities
- Limiting cities’ abilities to create diverse, thriving local economics
- Hamstringing local officials’ ability to do what is right for their cities