Oklahoma’s Transgender School Bathroom Law Being Challenged In Lawsuit

Civil rights groups are suing new legislation barring Oklahoma transgender students from accessing facilities aligning with their gender identity.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Oklahoma is one of the growing number of red states passing legislation that limits what transgender students can do in schools. In the Sooner state, transgender kids are barred from participating form sports teams that don’t align with their birth gender. Likewise, an Oklahoma bathroom bill passed the legislature last year, prohibiting them from accessing their bathroom of choice. But today, the latter is being challenged in court amid a growing national debate.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of transgender students in the state seeking to block the Oklahoma bathroom law. The suit is filed against the state’s Department of Education, three school districts, a charter school, and a handful of state officials. According to reports from local Oklahoma news outlet KFOR,  The ACLU argues that the new law violates the 14th Amendment and Title IX.

The Oklahoma bathroom bill was pushed through by conservative lawmakers inside of Senate Bill 615, which dealt with sex education curriculums. Signed into law last May, the new legislation required parents or guardians of school children to approve of sex education materials before they are to be used in schools. Much of the bill’s text cited sexual orientation and gender identity as reasons for the push.

But before the bill was signed by the state’s governor, Republican lawmakers pushed for amendments requesting that schools enforce a biological sex bathroom policy. This is where the Oklahoma bathroom portion of the bill was created. While it was ridiculed by Democratic lawmakers, the state’s Republican majority was enough to vote it through.

The bill’s author, Sen. David Bullard argued that the Oklahoma bathroom ruling was necessary to protect the privacy of students and rid schools of radical indoctrination. Additionally, he said it was part of the state’s duty to protect all children, not “just a few.” But opposers see things much differently.

One of the transgender students being represented in the ACLU lawsuit said the Oklahoma bathroom ban places a target on transgender students. 16-year-old Andy Bridge discussed the toll this legislation has burdened him with since transitioning and being told he could not use the boys’ restroom in school. “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,” he said in a press release

Adding to the reasons why the Oklahoma bathroom law violates constitutional mandates, the ACLU alleges that student’s who disobey face suspension if they attempt to access a restroom or locker room corresponding to their identifying gender. What’s more, schools that fail to comply face budget penalization. A court decision now awaits.

Oklahoma bathroom

The Oklahoma bathroom law now being sued marks one of more than a dozen conservative states that have passed laws in the past year that are said to specifically target the transgender community. Proponents feel the need for these acts as a way to protect students. But defectors fear they are discriminatory in practice. Whether or not the judge sides with the state on this matter, or agrees with the viewpoints of the civil rights groups attempting to block it from being enforced, remains unknown.