LGBTQ Pride Month

Transgender Student Scores Big Win In Wisconsin Court: Here's What It Means Going Forward

"I hope my case will help other transgender students."

A transgender student named Ashton Whitaker scored a big win in a Wisconsin court on May 30, and it could help hundreds of transgender children in the fight for their rights going forward. Here's what you need to know.

Per HelloGiggles, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Wisconsin ruled in favor of Ash, a transgender boy, to use the boys' bathroom at his high school. Though this may not sound like much, this pivotal ruling is in direct contradiction with the current administration's earlier decision to roll back federal Obama-era protections (backed by that administration's interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools) for transgender students.

As you may recall, the Trump administration withdrew the protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity back in February. According to CNN, the protections were removed without a replacement "in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved."

Ash and his mom. Photos courtesy of the Transgender Law Center.
Ash and his mom. Photos courtesy of the Transgender Law Center. transgenderlawcenter.org

Whitaker had been fighting his school — George Nelson Tremper High School in Kenosha — for about two years, and even after a judge ruled in his favor back in September, Tremper appealed the decision because they argued letting Whitaker use the bathroom of his choosing would cause more harm to the other male students and jeopardize their privacy.

Judge Ann Claire Williams, a member of the three-judge panel who ruled unanimously in Whitaker's favor earlier this week, totally disagreed. "Harm," she argued in her decision, was totally speculative, while Whitaker's well-documented medical issues and suicidal thoughts stemming from not being able to use restroom intended for his gender, is not, and is actually harmful. 

"A policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender non-conformance, which in turn violates Title IX," she wrote.

Whitaker's win in the courtroom marks an instance in which a state's judicial system (in this case, Wisconsin) chose to ignore presidential guidelines and use their power rule differently. 

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Whitaker's lawyer, Ilona Turner (pictured above) of the Transgender Law Center, tells NBC News the ruling "is just another building block on the large and growing number of courts to hold that discrimination against transgender people is illegal."

Since Whitaker is set to graduate from Tremper High School this week he won't really benefit from the ruling, but it does set an important precedent for other transgender students across the country. As he explains to NBC, "I hope my case will help other transgender students in Kenosha and elsewhere to just be treated the same as everyone else without facing discrimination and harassment from school administrators."

Read more of Ash's thoughts below:

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There are currently cases similar to Whitaker's being argued in Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to USA Today, and though laws vary from state to state, this historic ruling has the power to influence subsequent decisions in other parts of the country.

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