Attorney General James Fights To Protect Transgender Students’ Rights

November 11, 2022

New York Attorney General Letitia James took legal action to protect transgender students’ rights. Co-leading a coalition of 17 attorneys general.

Attorney General James filed an amicus brief in the case of A.M. v. Indianapolis Public Schools in support of a challenge to an Indiana statute that bans transgender female students from participating in girls’ sports in K-12 schools.

A student, A.M., was barred from playing on her school’s girls’ softball team after the law was passed despite having been a part of the team with no issue in the past. 

“Transgender students should be afforded the same opportunities as their peers without facing discrimination or stigma,” said Attorney General James. “Transgender students participating on the sports team that fits their identity does not reduce opportunity for anyone. It uplifts all students by creating a more inclusive environment. I will continue to fight against efforts that discriminate against people based on their identity.” 

The brief — filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit — argues for the court to affirm a lower court ruling which allowed A.M. to continue participating on the sports team corresponding to her gender identity during the litigation. The court made this ruling on the basis that the Indiana statute which banned her from the team likely violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as it denies transgender girls access to the same athletic opportunities that other boys and girls have. The attorneys generally support this reasoning and want to ensure that federal law is applied properly to protect transgender people from discrimination. The attorneys general also notes that because the sole purpose of Indiana’s law is to exclude and stigmatize transgender girls like A.M., it clearly violates her right to equal protection under the law.

The brief also notes that over 1.6 million people in the United States — including about 300,000 youth between the ages of 13 and 17 — identify as transgender and that transgender people have been a part of society worldwide back to antiquity. These Americans make valuable contributions to our communities as teachers, essential workers, firefighters, doctors, and more, but face discrimination, violence, and harassment that limits their ability to realize their potential. One survey of transgender students found that 77 percent of respondents reported negative experiences in school including verbal harassment and assault. The attorneys general demonstrate that allowing transgender students to participate in school sports yields broad benefits for all students without reducing opportunity for anyone. 

Attorney General James has repeatedly fought for the rights of transgender individuals. This August, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 22 attorneys general in challenging an Indiana School District’s policy to prohibit transgender students from using bathrooms which correspond with their gender identity. In November 2021, she co-led a coalition of 23 attorneys general in challenging a similar policy in a Florida School District. In October 2021, Attorney General James led a multi-state coalition of attorneys general to support transgender students seeking to participate in sex-segregated school sports consistent with their gender identity. Additionally, in November 2019, Attorney General James successfully co-led a coalition of attorneys general in the fight to support the rights of transgender students to use bathrooms in line with their gender identity in the case Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Joining Attorney General James in filing the brief are the attorneys general of Hawai’i, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

The amicus brief was prepared by Assistant Solicitor General Mark Grube, Deputy Solicitor General Judith N. Vale, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood — all of the Division of Appeals and Opinions. 

Photo credit: LA.

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