The U.S. Supreme Court handed a surprising victory to transgender youth Tuesday after declining to review an appeal from a central Indiana public school district over bathroom rights for trans students.
By refusing to take up the case, the nation’s top court left in place a lower court ruling requiring the district to treat transgender students equally.
The case involves a trans teen, identified in court papers as A.C., who attended a middle school in Martinsville, about 30 miles southwest of Indianapolis.
The 2021 lawsuit — filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of A.C. and his parents — argued the John R. Wooden Middle School caused the teen “irreparable harm” after denying him access to the boys’ rest rooms and locker rooms at school.
Last year, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld an order granting transgender boys access to the boys’ bathroom.
In October 2023, the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville appealed the ruling and asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on the contentions issue, arguing schools need a definite decision on the issue.
“Simply put, states and school districts need a clear answer about which policies are permissible under Title IX and the Constitution, and they need that answer now,” the district’s lawyers wrote in a petition to the Supreme Court, alleging the 7th Circuit had misinterpreted the law.
“Title IX” prohibits gender-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government.
The justices’ denial to weigh in on the case — which had no noted dissents — was celebrated as a “somewhat surprising but wonderful piece of news,” prominent trans rights advocate and journalist Erin Reed posted on X, noting the ruling “means that bathroom rights will be likely protected in several states for trans people in the next few months.”
The case could still be reviewed by the Supreme Court in the future.
At least nine U.S. states have enacted legislation that bars trans students from using facilities consistent with their gender identity, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Movement Advancement Project.