Sunday, October 27, 2013

Restroom battles emerge in transgender rights cases

The title of this post come from this article about the recent victory of two transgender individuals before the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Although born as men, these two women will now be able to use women's restrooms in public places. The article states in part:

These cases, along with milestones such as the University of Northern Iowa's crowning of transgender student Steven Sanchez as its homecoming queen this month, bring visibility to a new set of rights issues in Iowa.

"Civil rights for black people didn't happen overnight, and it won't happen overnight for trans people, either," said Jodie Jones, an Iowa City transgender who won a dispute over whether she could use the women's restroom at the Johnson County Courthouse. "But I feel like we've moved the ball forward."

But moments of acceptance can be accompanied by challenges, Iowa's transgender residents say. Sanchez told The Des Moines Register last week that he feared using the women's restrooms on the  college's campus because, he said, university policies are unclear.

Confusion about the law is compounded by little court precedent on the issue, said Beth Townsend, director of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Smalley's case was the first in Iowa to advance through a public hearing process, and the administrative law judge who heard the arguments decided against her.

"The Iowa Civil Rights Act cannot be interpreted so broadly to give a biological male, albeit one who identifies herself as a female, the right to change clothes with and shower in a female locker room," Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Farrell wrote in his opinion on the Smalley case.

But other authorities have reached different conclusions. The civil rights commission has resolved two cases in favor of transgender Iowans. In addition to Jones, the commission also helped rural Humboldt County resident Charlene Adams win the right to use a restroom that corresponds to her gender identity.

14th Amendment, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights History, Civil Rights Litigation | Permalink


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