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SF argues expanded rights protect transgender students from harm

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Transgender bathroom signage at the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Monday. (Yesica Prado/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Some have said that allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice threatens public safety, but attorneys for San Francisco and 30 other local governments flipped the argument on its head Thursday in a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera joined attorneys from across the nation, including New York and Los Angeles, in supporting the rights of transgender students with the brief, which is meant to bolster the case of a transgender student who was denied the right to use the restroom of his choosing in Virginia.

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The case leaned on federal guidance from former President Barack Obama that the Trump administration withdrew last week, leaving it up to states and school districts to determine whether students are allowed to use restrooms matching their gender identity.

In the brief, the attorneys argue that giving transgender people options reduces “the threat of violence transgender people face when they are forced to use facilities that do not accord with their public presentation of gender,” according to the brief.

“Passing laws in our cities that guarantee the protection of transgender people has only enhanced public safety and led to communities that are more inclusive,” Herrera said in a statement. “Wrapping discrimination in a cloak of unfounded fear doesn’t protect anyone. It weakens us all.”

Attorneys also argue that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX, a federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex.

The court is expected to hear arguments in the case March 28. The case stems from a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a 17-year-old transgender boy named Gavin Grimm, who was allegedly not to use the boys’ restrooms in Gloucester County, Va.

“This is not a case about bathrooms — it is a case about fundamental civil rights,” Herrera said. “Separate but equal is not equal.”

Tribune News Service contributed to this report.

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