Judge Tosses Transgender School Policies Lawsuit, Says Rules Don't Impact Religious Rights

A Virginia judge threw out a lawsuit filed by faith-based conservative groups that challenged policies inclusive of transgender students in public schools, saying the rules would not impact religious rights, the Associated Press reported.

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson dismissed the suit Tuesday, calling into question whether the policies would affect the groups that filed the suit.

"Because the model policies are directed only to school boards, they cannot affect or aggrieve anyone other than the school boards," Watson wrote in his opinion.

The lawsuit was rejected with a ruling that the groups who filed it lacked standing, and the policies to respect transgender and nonbinary students would not infringe upon other students' rights to freely express religion.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Trans student rights
A Virginia judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging guidelines on policies for transgender students in public schools, saying it did not impact religious rights. Above, LGBT activists and their supporters rally in support of transgender students on the steps of New York City Hall on October 24, 2018. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At the General Assembly's direction, the Department of Education created model policies that are inclusive of transgender and nonbinary students. All school districts must adopt policies consistent with or more comprehensive than the model policies. They include allowing students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and allowing students to use pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Christian Action Network, a faith-based organization, and two families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools filed a motion seeking to have the guidelines postponed. The lawsuit was merged with one filed by the Family Foundation, Founding Freedoms Law Center, and a family whose children attend public schools in Hanover County. The lawsuit argued that the model policies violate parental child-rearing rights and student rights to freely exercise their religion.

While the dismissal limits future statewide challenges, the fight will continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the school year starts.

"This is a win and we should celebrate it for the win that it is," said Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, an advocacy group focused on LGBTQ rights. "The work continues. We are still continuing to have these conversations because of the spread of misinformation that is out there."

The Founding Freedoms Law Center called the decision a "disappointing development" in a statement, but noted favorable outcomes including Watson calling the model policies guidance. The group said they'd fight "certain individual board policies" in coming weeks if they follow the state guidelines.

Trans pride flag
A Virginia judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging policies for transgender students in public schools filed by faith-based conservative groups. Above, a transgender flag between two pride flags on June 26, 2020, at Christopher Park in New York City. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images