A federal district judge in Pennsylvania dismissed a lawsuit filed by a transgender student who wanted to use men’s bathrooms and locker rooms on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
The student, Seamus Johnston, was born female but identifies as a male.
Officials at Pitt’s Johnstown campus eventually expelled Johnston for repeatedly using a men’s locker room despite the school’s order that she not do so.
Johnston filed her federal lawsuit claiming that the school violated her civil rights by preventing her from using men’s locker rooms and restrooms. (RELATED: Another Transgender Student Claims Discrimination Over Bathroom, Locker Room Use)
Former President George W. Bush appointee Judge Kim R. Gibson of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania published his memorandum opinion on March 31. Gender Identity Watch has the full opinion (and corresponding docket history).
Johnston lost on each of five claims concerning her desire to use men’s bathrooms and locker rooms on the taxpayer-funded Pitt Johnstown campus.
“[S]eparating students by sex based on biological considerations — which involves the physical differences between men and women — for restroom and locker room use simply does not violate the Equal Protection Clause,” the federal court determined.
Title IX, a comprehensive 1972 federal law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, does not apply to Johnston’s situation, the court found, even though, as Inside Higher Ed notes, President Barack Obama’s Department of Education — which is manifestly not vested with judicial powers — has taken to applying Title IX to transgender cases.
A “sex stereotyping theory” doesn’t work either, the court explained.
“Indeed,” the court said, Johnston admitted that school officials allowed her to present herself with a “male gender identity in all material respects, with the one exception of the University’s policy regarding bathroom and locker room usage.”
She was “permitted to enroll in a men’s weight training course.” School officials accepted Johnston’s “name change to a traditional male name” and changed her records “to reflect the name change.”
School officials offered Johnston the chance to use of the unisex locker room used sports by referees because male students had complained about Johnston’s use of the male locker room, notes Insider Higher Ed.
These and other concessions were not enough for the transgender student, however.
“Plaintiff argues that Defendants treated him differently from other males because he was transgender,” the court, which uses masculine pronouns to identify Johnston, concluded. “This contention is simply inconsistent with his other allegations that the University permitted him, without harassment or discrimination, to dress like a man, act like a man, change his name to reflect his male gender, and enroll in classes designated for males.”
Johnston had been enrolled at Pitt Johnstown for five undergraduate semesters from 2009 through 2011. She was a computer science major.
Her time at Pitt Johnstown was filled with considerable tribulation.
Prior to filing the federal suit, for example, Johnston, then 22, and her partner, Katherine Anne McCloskey, then 56, filmed an attempted (and failed) series of citizen’s arrests at the Pitt-Johnstown campus. McCloskey did the failed arresting. Johnston filmed the events. (The pair’s antics can be seen toward the end of a collection of clips from WPXI on YouTube.)
Also, the FBI focused on Johnston and McCloskey during an investigation of some bomb threats made at the main Pitt in Pittsburgh. The FBI questioned the couple in 2012. There was also a federal grand jury that threatened at times to dissolve into a circus.