February 28, 2017 / 6:46 AM / 6 months ago

Judge issues injunction against Pennsylvania district in transgender case

(Reuters) - Three transgender high school students in suburban Pittsburgh can use bathrooms that match their gender identity as their federal case against their school district proceeds in court, a judge ruled on Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Hornak ordered the Pine-Richland School District to stop enforcing a rule adopted in September for students to use facilities corresponding to their biological sex or unisex facilities, court documents showed.

The ruling comes five days after President Donald Trump's administration revoked landmark guidance to public schools allowing transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice, reversing a signature initiative of former Democratic President Barack Obama.

The high school seniors - Juliet Evancho, Elissa Ridenour and a transgender boy, referred to only as A.S. - filed a federal lawsuit in October, saying the district's policy was unconstitutional and discriminated against them.

"This is wonderful news and a tremendous relief that we can now use the bathroom without feeling isolated and humiliated," Ridenour said in a statement after the ruling.

Hornak granted a preliminary injunction against the district, saying the three had demonstrated a likelihood of success for their claim that it violated their constitutionally-guaranteed rights of equal protection, court documents showed.

The students "appear to the court to be young people seeking to do what young people try to do every day - go to school, obtain an education, and interact as equals with their peers," Hornak, a judge of the Western District of Pennsylvania, wrote in his 48-page opinion.

Similar legal battles are being fought across the country as school officials and lawmakers debate whether transgender people should be allowed use of facilities that correspond with their gender identity rather than their birth sex.

Juliet Evancho is the sister of Jackie Evancho, who sang the U.S. national anthem at Trump's inauguration in January, and weighed in on his decision last week, making a request on social network Twitter to meet the president.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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