Yesterday, I discussed Houston’s vote on Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). For those who have followed this story in Houston, you might be a little perplexed about the title of this entry because, yesterday, voters rejected HERO by a rather wide margin. Social conservatives might call this a victory, but those who paid close attention to the headlines yesterday noted a radical decision that the U.S. government made in a similar case in a Chicago school district.
For two years, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigated the claims that a certain suburban Chicago school district discriminated against a biologically/physiologically male student who identifies as a female. According to the Chicago Tribune, the school district instructed the staff to change transgender students’ names, use feminine pronouns, and allowed them access to female bathrooms.
In the instance of allowing these students access to female locker rooms, however, the district denied transgender students that privilege. Once a student filed a complaint that he/she had been discriminated against, the school “as recently as last week” had attempted to comply by putting up privacy curtains where the transgender student could change in the girls’ locker room.
For the student’s legal representation, this was not enough. Though “the student said she intends to use the private area or a locker room bathroom stall to change,” the fact that the administration would demand the transgender student to use a private area qualified as “blatant discrimination.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights agreed and has ruled that the school district “violated federal law by barring a transgender student from using the girls’ locker room.”
So while Houston voters struck down a similar “bathroom ordinance” in their city, the U.S. federal government will likely be stepping in shortly to enforce HERO despite Houston residents’ disapproval.