Judge OKs transgender bathroom law — at least for now

(UPDATED, 3:07 p.m., with statement from comment from Attorney General Raúl Labrador.)

A controversial transgender school bathroom law will go into effect within three weeks, after a federal judge’s ruling Thursday.

But the legal battle continues, because the judge also stopped short of dismissing a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law.

“This is a difficult case,” David Nye, Idaho’s chief U.S. district judge, wrote in a 37-page ruling on Senate Bill 1100.

Passed by the 2023 Legislature, SB 1100 mandates that students use the school bathroom, locker room or changing facility that aligns with their “biological sex.” The law voided policies in dozens of Idaho schools, which allowed students to use school facilities aligned to their gender identity.

The law went into effect on July 1. Less than a week later, a Boise middle school student and a Boise High School LGBTQ+ filed a lawsuit, saying the new law discriminated against transgender students.

In August, the federal court temporarily blocked enforcement of the law. But on Thursday, Nye lifted this block, and denied the plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction. In his ruling, Nye said he didn’t believe the plaintiffs would be able to make a successful case to overturn the law.

“The state of Idaho has an interest in protecting the privacy and safety of its youth while at school, wrote Nye, noting that the law requires schools to make alternative accommodations for students who say they cannot use facilities aligned to their biological sex. “That not all people agree with the law is the reality of living in a pluralistic society where everyone cannot have everything they want according to how they see the world.”

Nye also took a dim view of the state’s arguments.

“While they move to dismiss all claims, defendants do so in a perfunctory manner, with little explanation,” Nye wrote.

Meanwhile, the scene now shifts to Idaho schools. With the clock ticking.

“Because the court’s decision today will take time to implement, the court will extend the (temporary restraining order) for 21 days,” Nye wrote. “This should provide enough time for school districts to identify and designate restrooms, changing facilities, and overnight accommodations in a manner consistent with SB 1100. Once the 21 days have elapsed, SB 1100 will be in full force and effect.”

A proponent of SB 1100 hailed Nye’s ruling — but did not mention that the law remains under a legal challenge.

“All students — but especially our girls — deserve safety in vulnerable places like school bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers,” Blaine Conzatti, president of the Idaho Family Policy Center, said in a news release. “We’re thrilled that the federal judge agreed with what we’ve been saying all along — that this law is constitutionally sound and protects the privacy rights of all students.”

In a statement Friday, Attorney General Raúl Labrador said his office will continue to make the case for the law. “This is a significant win for our office. SB 1100 is a law designed to protect students.”

An attorney for the plaintiffs criticized the decision.

“This ruling puts transgender students directly in harm’s way by stigmatizing them as outsiders in their own communities and depriving them of the basic ability to go about their school day like everyone else,” said Peter Renn, senior counsel for Lambda Legal. “For years, transgender students have been able to use restrooms consistent with their gender at many schools across Idaho, without causing harm to anyone else.”

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday