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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal court: No misgendering trans students on religious grounds

Public school teachers do not have the right to misgender a trans student & religious accommodation could not justify the harm to students



The courtroom of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, Chicago, Illinois (Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith, photographer, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

CHICAGO – The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled Friday that a public school teacher does not have the right to misgender a trans student simply because they’re trans. The Court found a religious accommodation could not justify the “harm to students and disruption to the learning environment.”

The three-judge circuit court panel upheld a January 8, 2020 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

The case on behalf of John Kluge, who worked at Brownsburg High School, in Brownsburg, Indiana as a music and orchestra teacher from 2014 until May 2018, was brought by the anti-LGBTQ+ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which self labels as a conservative Christian legal advocacy group, but the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) first listed as an anti-LGBTQ hate group in 2016.

WISH-TV in Indianapolis had reported that in court documents Brownsburg faculty during meetings in early 2017 began talking about transgender students and “how teachers can encourage and support them.” After that, faculty and staff approached the high school’s principal for direction on how to address transgender students.

In May 2017, Kluge and three other teachers presented the principal with a signed letter expressing religious objections to “transgenderism,” asking that faculty and staff not be required to refer to trans students by their preferred pronouns. In the letter, they also said they did not want transgender students to be allowed to use the restrooms or locker rooms of their choice.

Later in that May, the Brownsburg Community School Corporation district adopted a policy that required all staff to refer to students by their chosen name listed in the school records. According to court documents, “students could change their first names in PowerSchool if they presented a letter from a parent and a letter from a healthcare professional regarding the need for a name change.”

The policy also allowed transgender students to use restrooms of their choice and dress according to the gender with which they identified.

Kluge refused and was told by the high school’s principal that there were only three options: follow the policy; resign; or be suspended, pending termination. He refused to follow the policy or resign, so he was suspended.

Kluge then compromised and presented district officials with two requested accommodations: first, that he be allowed to refer to all students by their last names only, “like a gym coach;” and second, that he not be responsible for handing out gender specific orchestra uniforms to students. He would treat the class like an “orchestra team,” he proposed.

According to the court documents, He agreed that, if a student asked him why he was using last names only, he would not mention his religious objections to using transgender students’ first names and would explain, “I’m using last names only because we’re a team, we’re an orchestra team, just like a sports coach says, hey, Smith, hey, Jones. We are one orchestra team working towards a common goal.”

School officials began to receive complaints from the Brownsburg High School Equality Alliance students and parents that Kluge was referring to them by their last names only, was a practice they found insulting and disrespectful.

In addition to the complaints of the school’s LGBTQ+ students, a student who was not in the Equality Alliance but was in Kluge’s orchestra class and who did not identify as LGBTQ, told school administrators that Kluge’s use of last names made him feel incredibly uncomfortable. The student described Kluge’s practice as very awkward because the student was fairly certain that all the students knew why Kluge had switched to using last names, and that it made the trans students in the orchestra class stand out. The student felt bad for the trans students, and shared with that other students felt this way as well.

The principal met with Kluge in December of 2017 and told him using last names only was “creating tension in the students and faculty” and told him it might be good for him to resign at the end of the year.

On January 22, 2018, administrators presented the faculty with a document titled “Transgender Questions.” The document provided policies and guidance for faculty in a question/answer format regarding issues relevant to transgender students. Among the questions posed and answers given were the following:

Are we allowed to use the student’s last name only?

We have agreed to this for the 2017–2018 school year, but moving forward it is our expectation the student will be called by the first name listed in PowerSchool.

How do teachers break from their personal biases and beliefs so that we can best serve our students?

We know this is a difficult topic for some staff members, however, when you work in a public school, you sign up to follow the law and the policies/practices of that organization and that might mean following practices that are different than your beliefs

What feedback and information has been received from transgender students?

They appreciate teachers who are accepting and supporting of them. They feel dehumanized by teachers they perceive as not being accepting or who continue to use the wrong pronouns or names. Non-transgender students in classrooms with transgender students have stated
they feel uncomfortable in classrooms where teachers are not accepting. For example, teachers that call students by their last name, don’t use correct pronouns, don’t speak to the studentor acknowledge them, etc.

According to WISH-TV, Kluge responded to the document by asking if he would still be allowed to call the students by their last names only.

In a February meeting, administrators told Kluge he would no longer be allowed to continue that practice, saying the “accommodation was not reasonable.” They went on to discuss whether Kluge would finish the school year or resign mid-year and offered to let him submit his resignation and not process it or tell anyone about it until the end of the school year. Kluge told the court the explanation of the resignation process led him to believe he could turn in a “conditional resignation” that he could later withdraw.

In March, Kluge was once again given the same options: follow the name policy and keep working for the district, resign or be terminated. He was told if he didn’t submit his resignation by May 1, the district would begin the termination process.

On April 30, Kluge emailed the human resources director with a formal resignation and asked that it not be shared with anyone until May 29. In the letter, he said he was resigning because of the district’s name policy and the loss of his accommodation.

By late May Kluge then attempted to withdraw his resignation and accused the district of discrimination based on his religious beliefs. At a June 11 2018 school board meeting, he asked the board members to not to accept his resignation, and then there was a contentious public comments session as members of the community spoke both for and against his termination. The board approved his resignation.

Not long after he filed suit.

Judge Magnus-Stinson in her ruling noted: Kluge v. Brownsburg Cmty. Sch. Corp., 432 F. Supp. 3d 823, 851 (S.D. Ind. 2020) (“The Policy controlled the way in which Mr. Kluge addressed individual students during the course of his employment, but did not otherwise affect his ability to exercise his religion in the remainder of his life. Accordingly, to the extent that the Policy limited his religious exercise, the limitation was not so significant as to render the entire idea of free exercise of religion meaningless, because Mr. Kluge remained free to exercise his religious beliefs at other times and in other places.”)

Judge Magnus-Stinson also concluded that a public school corporation “has an obligation to meet the needs of all of its students, not just a majority of students or the students that were unaware of or unbothered by Mr. Kluge’s practice of using last names only.”

Friday’s appellate court decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Seventh Circuit ruling upholding U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson’s ruling:


U.S. Federal Courts

Pair of lawsuits filed against Virginia guidelines for trans students

Equality Virginia and other advocacy groups claim the guidelines, among other things, would forcibly out trans and nonbinary students



Los Angeles Blade graphic

RICHMOND, Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and a private law firm on Thursday filed two lawsuits against the state’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

One of the plaintiffs, a high school student in York County to whom the press release refers as “Jane Doe,” claims “at least one teacher refused to address by her correct first name.” The second plaintiff, “Lily Loe,” a middle school student in Hanover County, “is not allowed to participate in a girls’ sports team.”

“When you look at the ways that VDOE’s (Virginia Department of Education) model policies are hurting transgender and nonbinary students like our clients, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that their authors were purposefully trying to erase gender non-conforming students from the classroom,” said Andrew Ewalt, co-counsel and partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, which has an office in D.C. “That flouts both existing nondiscrimination law and the Virginia law that directed VDOE to develop model policies in the first place.”

The Virginia Department of Education last July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. 

Equality Virginia and other advocacy groups claim the guidelines, among other things, would forcibly out trans and nonbinary students. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

“It was clear since the day that he took office that Gov. Youngkin and his Department of Education would target LGBTQ+ Virginians and single out transgender and nonbinary students for discrimination, and now that some school boards are implementing and enforcing their model policies for public schools, it’s even more clear that the harm is real,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman on Thursday in a statement. 

“We applaud the ACLU of Virginia for taking on these harmful policies and for fighting for the health and well-being of students,” added Rahaman. “We’re proud to work toward those goals, together.” 

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal appeals court upholds block on Idaho trans care ban

The law bans puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and certain surgeries if they are used to affirm the gender of trans people under 18



James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Courthouse San Francisco (Photo Credit: US Courts/GSA)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The Ninth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a lower court’s ruling blocking enforcement of an Idaho law banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender people under 18.

HB 71 bans puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and certain surgeries if they are used to affirm the gender of transgender people under 18, and threatens medical providers who provide this widely accepted care with a felony conviction and up to 10 years in prison.

Chief United States District Judge for the District of Idaho, B. Lynn Winmill, in December ruled that HB 71, a ban on gender-affirming care in the state violates the equal protection and due process rights of parents and their transgender children.


The state of Idaho asked the Ninth Circuit to stay that injunction pending the appeal and allow the law to go into effect immediately, and today’s order refuses to do so.

“This ruling should be celebrated by everyone who decries discrimination,” said Paul Carlos Southwick, ACLU of Idaho Legal Director. “We celebrate alongside transgender youth and their families throughout Idaho who will continue to have access to the health care they need and deserve.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

18 Years in Federal prison for firebombing LGBTQ friendly church

“Penny is being held accountable for trying to burn down a house of worship because he disagreed with the church hosting certain events”



Aimenn D. Penny (center) of Alliance, Ohio is shown here with fellow extremists and neo-Nazis at anti-drag protest rally. (Photo Credit: FBI)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The neo-Nazi who attempted to burn a church to the ground after learning the church was holding multiple drag show events was sentenced yesterday to 18 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for attempting to burn down a church because of its support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Aimenn D. Penny, 20, of Alliance, Ohio, was arrested and charged last year with one count of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, one count of using fire to commit a federal felony, one count of malicious use of explosive materials, and one count of possessing a destructive device.  On Oct. 23, 2023, Penny pleaded guilty to the church arson hate crime and using fire and explosives to commit a felony. 

“Aimenn Penny will spend the next 18 years in prison because he committed crimes fueled by hate, attempting to burn down a church because its members supported the LGBTQI+ community,” said U.S. Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko for the Northern District of Ohio. “Hate crimes like Penny’s hurt not only the individual target, but the entire community, causing people to fear attack based on who they love and undermining the sense of safety within places of worship. Violent, bias-motivated extremism has no place in our country, and our office will aggressively prosecute those who commit such crimes.” 

According to court documents, Penny attempted to burn the church to the ground after learning the Community Church of Chesterland, in Chesterland, Ohio, was holding multiple drag show events the following weekend. He was initially arrested and charged with federal offenses on March 31, 2023.

The FBI Cleveland Field Office, which is investigating the case, finding a Nazi flag, a White Lives Matter of Ohio T-shirt, and other hateful memorabilia in Penny’s home. During the interviews with the FBI, he told FBI agents his only regret was that the church didn’t burn to the ground.

“We hope this significant sentence sends a clear and resounding message that this type of hate-fueled attack against a church will not be tolerated in our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This defendant tried to burn down a church simply because its members created space for and provided support to the LGBTQ+ community. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute such senseless, bias-motivated violence against people exercising their constitutionally protected right to practice their religion and express their beliefs.”

The FBI Cleveland Field Office investigated the case.

“Aimenn Penny is being held accountable for trying to burn down a house of worship because he disagreed with the church hosting certain events,” said Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “Individuals who commit acts of violence, destroy property, and interfere with the free exercise of religion will face justice for those crimes. As in this case, the FBI, together with our law enforcement partners, will use our lawful authorities to protect our communities from such violence, and ensure those responsible pay the price.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

BBC: Ex-A&F CEO denies trafficking allegations- FBI investigates

The BBC reported the FBI has begun an investigation and that agents have been interviewing & issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses



Former head of Abercrombie & Fitch facing sexual abuse allegations by former male models. (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News)

NEW YORK – Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F), the American lifestyle retailer based in New Albany, Ohio, along with its former CEO Mike Jeffries, and his partner Matthew Smith, have petitioned a federal court in New York to dismiss a class action lawsuit alleging the fashion brand company, Jeffries and Smith were complicit in a multi-decade-long sex trafficking scheme.

The class action suit was brought by a former model for Abercrombie & Fitch, actor David Bradberry, whose account of the abuse was documented by BBC journalist Rianna Croxford, in the BBC Select film documentary:  The Abercrombie Guys: The Dark Side of Cool

According to a BBC follow-up report this past week, Jeffries alleges the claims of the suit fall outside the statute of limitations, and are “meritless.” The company says the lawsuit failed to show it knew about the alleged exploitation, and cannot be held liable.

Jeffries transformed Abercrombie and Fitch from a failing retail chain to a multibillion-dollar empire and the epitome of cool. He built Abercrombie into a global brand during his tenure as CEO from 1992 until 2014 when he departed.

In the lawsuit’s court documents, it states that Jeffries allegedly had modeling scouts scouring the internet and elsewhere to identify attractive young men seeking to be the next face of Abercrombie and Fitch. Often these prospective models became sex-trafficking victims, sent to New York and abroad and abused by Jeffries and other men, all under the guise that they were being recruited to become the next Abercrombie model, the lawsuit contends.

“Jeffries was so important to the profitability of the brand that he was given complete autonomy to perform his role as CEO however he saw fit, including through the use of blatant international sex-trafficking and abuse of prospective Abercrombie models,” the suit contends.

Former model for Abercrombie & Fitch and actor, David Bradberry.
(Screenshot/YouTube BBC Select)

In the recent court filings the BBC reported that Jeffries’ lawyers state that he “vehemently denies every allegation made against him” in the civil lawsuit, and “asks the court to look beyond the sensationalized narrative presented by the plaintiff, and to address the glaring legal deficiencies in the complaint, which necessitate the dismissal of this action”.

A separate legal document filed on behalf of Smith also asks for the lawsuit to be dismissed because the allegations “concern events that allegedly occurred in 2010,” and claim they have been “time-barred since 2011.” That court document also states that the claim “does not detail any specific, factual occurrences” of an alleged sexual offence by Smith.


The BBC noted that A&F filed a separate response, arguing that the retailer had no knowledge of the “supposed trafficking venture” or alleged sexual misconduct, and “up until the moment that the BBC’s reporting was released in October 2023, there was nothing public about the allegations against Jeffries.”

The BBC is also reporting that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun an investigation, and that FBI agents have been interviewing and issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Trans veterans sue the VA for coverage of surgeries

The lawsuit, filed by the Transgender American Veterans Association, aims to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes



U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough (Screen capture/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – A group of transgender veterans on Thursday sued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to compel the agency to cover gender affirming surgeries, following verbal assurances that it would begin providing these services.

The lawsuit, filed by the Transgender American Veterans Association, aims to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes that can result from lack of access to medically necessary healthcare interventions for people with gender dysphoria.

This includes suicides, depression and psychological distress.

In its complaint before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, the group argued gender affirming surgeries are often prohibitively expensive when administered by private doctors.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough in 2021 said the agency was engaged in a rule making process to provide these services to trans veterans such that they can “go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side.”

The process, he said, would take a few years to “develop capacity to meet the surgical needs.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

5th circuit court blocks Texas from enforcing book rating law

Plaintiffs: Law required book vendors to rate the explicitness of sexual references in books sold to schools- was unconstitutionally broad



Vandegrift High School Austin, Texas library on March 2, 2022. (Photo Credit: Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune)

By William Melhado | NEW ORLEANS. La. – The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday from enforcing a state law requiring booksellers to rate the explicitness and relevance of sexual references in materials they sell to schools.

The appellate court, one of the most conservative in the nation, sided with booksellers who sued the state after claiming House Bill 900 violated their First Amendment rights. The court affirmed a lower court’s decision to prevent TEA Commissioner Mike Morath from enforcing the 2023 law.

Wednesday’s decision was somewhat surprising since the appellate court blocked the lower court’s ruling in November. Addressing the reversal, Judge Don Willett with the 5th Circuit wrote that a “different panel of this court” had granted the state’s appeal to block that ruling.

The plaintiffs — which include bookshops in Houston and Austin, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild — argue that it is logistically impossible and cost-prohibitive to comply with the law.

The law requires vendors to rate all their books and materials for appropriateness, based on the presence of sex depictions or references, before selling them to school libraries. The law’s definitions of sexual conduct lean on state criminal statutes that are somewhat vague and open to interpretation to outline what might be considered “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant” content.

“The ratings [HB 900] requires are neither factual nor uncontroversial,” the court’s ruling read.

The law requires booksellers to submit ratings of materials to the TEA for review, which the state can correct and then publicly post online. The appellate court agreed with the vendors’ argument that the rating system violates their free speech protections and amounted to compelled speech that forced vendors to support a certain point of view.

The court also agreed that complying with the law would be an undue economic burden on the vendors.

Wednesday’s decision did not completely block the law. Still in effect is a component of HB 900 that requires the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to create new library collection standards. The new rules must prohibit school libraries from acquiring or keeping sexually explicit materials.

Plaintiffs originally sued Keven Ellis, chair of the Texas Board of Education, and Martha Wong, chair of the Texas State Library, alongside Morath. The 5th Circuit on Wednesday dismissed claims against Ellis and Wong because those officials don’t have purview over the book ratings that the court found to be unconstitutional.

Supporters of HB 900 have argued the law restores parents’ rights to protect their children from certain themes, rather than exposing them to potentially inappropriate material in publicly funded books. Book bans have gained steam across the state since the Texas law was passed, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica found.

Opponents, which include librarians, literacy advocates and other parents, say laws like HB 900 often target books and materials that explore sexuality and race — topics that, while uncomfortable to some, they say are important for youth who may not typically see their lived experiences reflected in literature.


William Melhado is an Austin-based general assignment reporter. He originally joined the Tribune in 2022 as a Poynter-Koch fellow. He previously worked as a staff writer at the Santa Fe Reporter, an alt-weekly newspaper in New Mexico. A native of Boulder, Colorado, William graduated from Middlebury College with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and earned a master’s in secondary science education at CUNY Lehman College.

The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.


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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal hate crime charges against Club Q mass-shooting killer

“The attack on Club Q was a horrific act of hate — the kind of anti-LGBTQ+ hate we must work to combat across the country”



Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Screenshot/YouTube U.S. Justice Dept)

DENVER, Colo. – Assistant United States Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced Tuesday federal hate crimes and firearms charges were made against the shooter related to the mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Nov. 19, 2022.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 23, is currently housed in a Wyoming State Correctional facility after pleading guilty to Colorado’s state-level charges in the Club Q shooting which garnered him a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Aldrich was moved to the Wyoming Correctional facility last year according to the Colorado Department of Corrections due to concerns about threats to Aldrich’s safety in Colorado’s prison facilities.

In this latest legal development, the Justice Department entered 50 hate-crimes charges and 24 weapons charges — Aldrich used a semiautomatic rifle in the attack. According to the announcement by Assistant U. S. Attorney General Clarke, Aldrich filed a notice of disposition and requested that the court schedule a change of plea hearing.

In consultation with the victims of this incident, the parties jointly filed a motion requesting that the U.S. District Court schedule the change of plea and sentencing hearings on the same date, which the court granted.

The parties further informed the court that there is a plea agreement in this matter, and it is anticipated that the defendant has agreed to plead guilty to all charges in the information. The time for the entry of the guilty plea has not yet been set.

Brandon Wolf, the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign in an emailed statement to the Blade reacted to the news saying:

“The attack on Club Q was a horrific act of hate — the kind of anti-LGBTQ+ hate we must work to combat across the country. It matters to have a Justice Department pushing back against hate instead of fomenting it. It matters to have policies like the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act that protect communities and hold perpetrators accountable. These charges won’t bring back those stolen from their loved ones, but they mark a step toward justice. Our fight to honor the victims and survivors with action continues.”

The court filing charges that Aldrich murdered five people, injured 19 and attempted to murder 28 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious and premediated attack at Club Q. According to the filing, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded assault weapon and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until Aldrich was subdued by patrons of the Club. The information also alleges that Aldrich committed this attack because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

During the state court trial in El Paso County Superior Court in Colorado Springs last year, Aldrich identified as nonbinary. El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen told reporters that he believed Aldrich claimed to be nonbinary to avoid being charged with hate crimes under the state’s laws. There was no indication Aldrich identified as nonbinary before the shooting, the District Attorney added.

The FBI Denver Field Office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the case.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Supreme Court declines Indiana trans youth bathroom ban case

The order protects trans students within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit — which includes Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin



U.S. Supreme Court (LA Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court denied a Writ of Certiorari in an Indiana case on whether schools can bar transgender students from using a bathroom that reflects their gender identity.

The justices in a brief order denied a request from a central Indiana school district to hear the case, which centers around a now-teenage transgender boy, identified in court documents as A.C., who was barred from using the boys restrooms at his former middle school, The Hill reported.

Represented by the ACLU of Indiana, an adolescent transgender boy and his parents filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville in December 2021 for failing to provide him with access to bathrooms consistent with his gender in violation of his rights under Title IX, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational programs, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In an August 2023 opinion, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found the school district policy did likely violate the student’s rights under Title IX and equal protection.

“We’re thankful the Court allowed this momentous victory for the transgender youth of Indiana to stand,” said Kenneth Falk, Legal Director of the ACLU of Indiana. “This case is about the fundamental right of every student to a safe and inclusive learning environment, and the policy at its core is an affront to the freedom of transgender youth to be themselves. We look forward to continuing to advocate for transgender Hoosiers and their families wherever their equality before the law is challenged.”

Chris Geidner, Editor at Law Dork reported: the order protects transgender students within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit — which includes Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin — and puts off any Supreme Court review of bathroom bans for some time, likely into 2025 or beyond.

Journalist Erin Reed noted:

“That means that many trans youth in Indiana and in several other states will be allowed to continue using the bathroom of their gender identity, as multiple circuit courts have found in favor of transgender plaintiffs. This does mean that those in the 11th Circuit states, so Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, will have to wait longer for protections. But it says that the Supreme Court will not likely not take up bathrooms in coming months.”

The High Court has a track record of declining cases involving transgender protections. In 2021, the justices declined to review a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit involving Gavin Grimm, a Virginia trans boy.

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U.S. Federal Courts

U.S. Justice Department supports trans inmate in Georgia lawsuit

Left untreated, individuals with gender dysphoria can experience significant adverse mental health outcomes



Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Corrections, State of Georgia.

ATLANTA – The U.S. Justice Department filed a statement of interest in a lawsuit brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia challenging the denial of treatment sought for gender dysphoria in a correctional setting.

The statement filed Monday, January 8, 2024, explains that gender dysphoria falls within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)’s definition of “disability” and affirms that correctional institutions cannot deny medically appropriate care for people with gender dysphoria, no matter their particular circumstances, consistent with the Eighth Amendment.

“People with gender dysphoria should be able to seek the full protections of the American with Disabilities Act, just like other people with disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We are committed to ensuring constitutional conditions inside our jails and prisons so that those detained inside these facilities, including people with gender dysphoria can live safely and receive needed medical care. The U.S. Constitution requires that people incarcerated in jails and prisons receive necessary medical care, treatment and services to address serious medical conditions.”

Doe, an incarcerated transgender woman, alleges that the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) has violated her rights under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and the U.S. Constitution by denying necessary medical care to treat her gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition that arises when a person experiences significant distress or impairment because of an incongruence between their gender identity and assigned sex. Left untreated, individuals with gender dysphoria can experience significant adverse mental health outcomes.

Doe alleges that the GDC has denied her adequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, including gender-affirming surgery that has been recommended by four clinicians and consistent hormone therapy. Because of the inadequate care and exacerbation of her gender dysphoria, Doe has engaged in repeated self-harm, including attempts at suicide and self-castration. Doe seeks a preliminary injunction that would grant her access to medically necessary treatment for her gender dysphoria. 

“The protections of the U.S. Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act do not stop at the doorsteps of our jails and prisons,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan for the Northern District of Georgia. “Our office remains committed to ensuring that all people with disabilities, including those with gender dysphoria, continue to receive access to such medically necessary treatments, even while they are in custody.”

The department’s statement of interest clarifies that gender dysphoria can be a covered disability under the ADA and does not fall within the ADA’s exclusion of gender identity disorders. The department’s statement also explains that prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment when they categorically refuse to provide medically necessary gender-affirming surgery to incarcerated individuals with gender dysphoria, no matter a person’s particular circumstances.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Man sentenced for death threats against Human Rights Campaign

Defendant also sent threatening messages to Maryland and Virginia State Delegates due to their support of transgender people



Adam Michael Nettina (Booking Photo: U.S. Department of Justice/FBI )

BALTIMORE – A Maryland man was sentenced today to two years in prison, along with three years of supervised release, for making death threats and other calls for violence against a the Washington D.C. based Human Rights Campaign, group that advocates for LGBTQI+ people.

According to the evidence presented by the government at today’s sentencing hearing, Adam Michael Nettina, 34, of West Friendship, also sent threatening messages to Maryland and Virginia state delegates due to their support of transgender people.

“This defendant targeted and threatened members of the LGBTQI+ community and their allies, instilling fear and promoting violence toward a heavily targeted community,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This sentence underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to combating threats against public officials and protected communities. We will work tirelessly to expunge the growing threat posed by bias-motivated acts of violence directed at the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.”

“You have the right to your own opinions, but you don’t have the right to threaten the lives of those who disagree with you. As this case demonstrates, free speech does not include violent threats against others,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland. “We’ll continue prosecuting these threats to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Threats of violence made against people and organizations to instill fear will not be tolerated,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge R. Joseph Rothrock of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work diligently to ensure the civil rights of all Americans are protected.”

According to court documents, on the evening of March 28, 2023, the victim organization received a threatening voicemail from a phone number, which investigators identified as belonging to Nettina. 

The message referenced the March 27, 2023, mass shooting at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, involving multiple shooting fatalities, where police identified the perpetrator as a transgender woman. During the call, numerous threats were made including, “…we’ll cut your throats. We’ll put a bullet in your head…You’re going to kill us? We’re going to kill you 10 times more in full.”

Nettina admitted that he left this voicemail for the purpose of issuing a threat and with the knowledge that the voicemail would be viewed as a threat. Further, Nettina intentionally selected the advocacy organization as a target of his message because of the actual and perceived gender, gender identity and sexual orientation of the people who work at and are assisted by the organization.

As detailed in his plea agreement, on March 31, 2022, a Maryland State Delegate posted a message of support on social media in honor of Trans Day of Visibility. Nettina responded on social media later that same day, which stated, among other things, that he had “begun the formal process of getting you excommunicated…” from the Catholic Church. On Nov. 8, 2022, the delegate was reelected. Nettina sent the delegate another message on social media, stating: “…Baby killing terrorist. Enjoy hell…You’re going sooner than you think.”

Finally, as outlined in the court documents, on Oct. 13, 2022, an online news story was published about an interview a Virginia State Delegate gave in which she advocated for the prevention of abuse towards transgender children. 

Two days later, on Oct. 15, 2022, Nettina sent an email to the delegate’s press email account, stating: “The delegate is a terrorist. You are a terrorist. You deserve to be shot and hung in the streets. You want to come after people? Let’s go bitch.” Nettina also sent a similar message to another email address of the delegate two minutes later. 

Nettina intentionally selected the delegate and her campaign staff as the recipient of his email because of the actual and perceived gender, gender identity and sexual orientation of the people and constituents for whom the delegate had expressed support.

The FBI Baltimore Field Office investigated the case.

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