The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined for now to weigh in on the contentious issue of bathroom access for transgender students by rejecting an Indiana school district’s appeal.
The court left in place an appeals court ruling that required a middle school in Martinsville, Indiana, to allow a transgender boy to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity.
The student, identified in court papers as A.C., who has since graduated from John R. Wooden Middle School, is now in high school, where he is able to use his preferred bathroom.
The Metropolitan School District of Martinsville had wanted the justices to conclude that it is not required to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choosing.
At issue was whether either the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which says that the laws apply equally to everyone, or Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, protects transgender students in that context.
The court’s decision not to intervene means that litigation in lower courts nationwide will continue, with judges reaching differing conclusions. The Supreme Court is likely to weigh in on the issue at some point.
In 2023, the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the school district, upholding a federal judge’s injunction that allowed several transgender students to use their preferred bathrooms.
The court noted that A.C., then 13, has identified as a boy since he was 8 years old and has for years used a male name, used male pronouns and adopted a “typically masculine haircut and clothing.”
The Biden administration has issued guidance saying that Title IX protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, meaning transgender students would be protected.
That approach has been contested in cases arising both from bathroom access and school sports. Last year, the administration proposed a new rule for transgender student athletes that would allow for some restrictions in competitive high school and college sports.
The Supreme Court in a surprise ruling in 2020 authored by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch said in a 6-3 vote that federal law that bars sex discrimination in employment protected LGBTQ people, a ruling that angered conservatives. The new cases raise the question of whether the same reasoning applies to Title IX.
The Supreme Court in 2021 declined to take up a case about the question of whether transgender students can use school bathrooms that correspond with their gender identities as court battles have continued around the country. On a related issue, the court last year allowed a transgender girl in West Virginia to participate in girls’ sports.