March 1, 2019 | Office of Attorney General Keith Ellison

Press Release

Attorney General Ellison: ‘Transgender kids, like everyone, deserve to live with dignity and respect’

Minnesota Attorney General’s office joins multistate amicus brief in favor of transgender student who was wrongly denied use of school bathroom that fits his gender identity

March 1, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined 20 other attorneys general in an amicus brief in support of Drew Adams, a transgender boy from Florida who successfully sued his school district for denying him access to the school bathroom that fits his gender identity. Minnesota and the other states filed the brief in support of Drew Adams in the school district’s appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of a district court ruling in Adams’s favor.

“Transgender kids, like everyone, deserve to live with dignity and respect. I stand with transgender folks, who make enormous contributions to every community in Minnesota, as they stand up to fear-based policies and attacks that are intended to us divide from each other. I’m proud to lend Minnesota’s name to support this young man’s bold fight to make sure he and all transgender kids can live with the same dignity and respect that everyone deserves — no exceptions,” Attorney General Ellison said.

The amicus brief addresses the discrimination transgender individuals experience at school and in the workplace, and the harm it causes. It then discusses how allowing people to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity benefits the residents of Minnesota and all the states by promoting safe and inclusive communities, workplaces, and schools without compromising the privacy and safety of others. It also agrees with the district court that this harmful policy violates Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause, and asks the Circuit Court to affirm the decision of the district court.

The full text of the amicus brief is available on the website of New York Attorney General Letitia James. In addition to Minnesota, the states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia, and the District of Columbia joined the brief, which was led by the states of New York and Washington.

In his original suit, plaintiff Drew Adams claimed that the school board’s policy against allowing him to use the school bathroom that fits his gender identity violates the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX.  The district court agreed on both counts. It concluded that the policy violated equal protection because the school’s privacy and safety concerns were insufficient justifications for treating transgender individuals differently. The court also held that gender-neutral bathrooms were inadequate due to the stigma that attaches to a student being forced to use a different bathroom. With respect to Title IX, the district court concluded that its prohibition on sex discrimination applies to gender-identity discrimination: it then held that the school’s policy violated Title IX because it discriminated based on gender identity. The court enjoined the school district from enforcing the policy with respect to this student and awarded him $1,000. The school district appealed to the 11th Circuit.

In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Corrigan wrote, “[T]he evidence is that Drew Adams poses no threat to the privacy or safety of any of his fellow students. Rather, Drew Adams is just like every other student at Nease High School, a teenager coming of age in a complicated, uncertain and changing world. When it comes to his use of the bathroom, the law requires that he be treated like any other boy.”