Transgender students from Virginia, Florida, score victories in landmark lawsuits

Transgender students from Virginia, Florida, score victories in landmark lawsuits
Source: file photo

WASHINGTON — Transgender teen Andrew Adams used the boys bathroom, which aligned with his gender identity, when he enrolled as a freshman in 2015 at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

Then two girls lodged a complaint and school authorities ordered Adams to use a gender-neutral or girls restroom instead. In 2017, he filed suit against the St. Johns County School Board.

“I am a boy and I know that with every fiber of my being,” he said at a trial in district court, which found in his favor.

Last month an appeals court handed him a second victory in his suit, one of a pair of cases that have major implications for transgender students in Florida and across the country and could eventually make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The rulings also are significant in Florida, where advocates say there are few protections in the law for LGBTQ people.

Adams called the victories “symbols of progress for the transgender community” in an interview.

“The ruling definitely doesn’t mean that nobody will get hurt like this again,” he told the Florida Phoenix. “But it means that students who might be … in a bad situation will have more evidence to support their side.”

The victories make it “a lot harder” for school districts to justify transphobic policies, he said. As a result, fewer students will be forced to use restrooms that don’t align with their gender or are separate from other student restrooms, and fewer will experience the trauma of suing for equal bathroom access while in high school, he said.

Tara Borelli, a lawyer at Lamda Legal who has argued Adams' case, agreed, calling his victory a “beacon of hope for transgender kids.”

The cases center around Adams and Gavin Grimm of Virginia, who also went to court after he was barred from his high school boys bathroom.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.