Missouri Court Rules Against Transgender Teen in Bathroom Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) – A divided Missouri appeals court ruled that a Kansas City teenager who was born a girl but has been living as a boy since age 9 is not allowed to use the boys’ locker rooms and restrooms at his school.

Although R.M.A.’s name and gender have been changed on his birth certificate, the Blue Springs School District has refused to budge on letting him use the boys’ bathroom, and now it doesn’t have to, thanks to a decision handed down Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals’ Western District.

The transgender teen filed a discrimination charge against the Blue Springs School District in 2014 after not being allowed to use the boys’ locker room based on his sex and gender identity.

The trial court dismissed the complaint and rejected a motion to reconsider its judgment.

Even though the school district has allowed R.M.A. to participate in the boys’ physical-education classes, football and track teams, he is expected to use female facilities when it comes to taking showers, changing and going to the bathroom.

His most recent appeal cited the Missouri Human Rights Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination in public accommodation, including on the basis of gender-related traits.

While other courts across the country have ruled in favor of transgender students’ right to use the bathroom of their choice, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment in R.M.A’s case in a 2-1 ruling.

The appeals court’s majority noted that despite the fact that the teen identifies as a boy, he has female genitalia, and it agreed with the school district that the Missouri Human Rights Act “does not extend its protection to claims based on gender identity.”

“In enacting the MHRA, the General Assembly did not intend ‘discrimination on the grounds of sex’ to include the deprivation of a public accommodation – the boys’ restroom and locker room – because a person is transitioning from female to male,” Judge Cynthia Martin wrote for the majority. “Our judicial role does not permit us to vary settled legislative intent based on evolving social sensitivities. Instead, we are bound by the state of the law as it currently exists.”

Martin was joined in the majority by Judge Victor Howard.

Judge Anthony Gabbert dissented, saying it is too early to toss out R.M.A.’s case.

“The fact that RMA’s sexual anatomy was the basis for discriminatory conduct is sufficient for RMA’s claim to survive a motion to dismiss,” he wrote. “By admitting that respondents’ conduct was based on sex, respondents concede that RMA has stated a claim for which relief could be granted.”

Gabbert said the transgender teen satisfies the statutory requirement for stating a claim of discrimination and that the appeals court should have reversed the trial court’s granting of the school district’s motion to dismiss.

“Only then will the parties have equal opportunity to address the question of discrimination and any uncertainty regarding privacy or security,” he said in his dissenting opinion.

Representatives for the school district did not respond Wednesday to phone calls requesting comment.

R.M.A.’s attorney, Alexander Edelman, said that he is currently reviewing the ruling and consulting with the teen and his parents on how to proceed, but declined to comment further.

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