Indianapolis Public Schools must allow a 10-year-old transgender girl to continue playing on a school-sponsored softball team, a federal judge has ruled. The decision comes after the girl challenged a new state law that prohibits trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.
Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the Indiana Southern District Court issued the ruling in favor of A.M., who challenged House Enrolled Act 1041, on Tuesday. However, the injunction only applies to A.M.’s case, so HEA 1041 — which went into effect July 1 after the Indiana Legislature overrode Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto — remains law in Indiana.
“The law (HEA 1041) remains in effect across the state and we will continue our work to defend this law and to protect Indiana’s K12 students,” Indiana Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita tweeted Tuesday. The state, represented by Rokita, intervened in the litigation.
He added, “The court’s ruling allows only this particular plaintiff to play this particular sport at this particular elementary school.”
On May 24, the same day as the veto override, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of A.M.
In a 28-page preliminary injunction order issued Tuesday, Magnus-Stinson grappled with the lawfulness of Indiana Code § 20-33-13-4, which she said “raises controversial issues regarding the boundaries of Title IX and whether and how those boundaries should stretch and shift in an ever-changing world.”
“But ‘the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demand. When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit,’” she wrote, citing Bostock v. Clayton Cnty., Ga., 140 S. Ct. 1730 (2020).
“When misinformation about biology and gender is used to bar transgender girls from school sports it amounts to the same form of sex discrimination that has long been prohibited under Title IX, a law that protects all students — including trans people — on the basis of sex,” Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director, said in a news release. “We are pleased that Judge Magnus-Stinson has recognized this and required that A.M. be allowed to play on her school’s softball team.”
In the complaint, A.M., by her mother and next friend, E.M., v. Indianapolis Public Schools; Superintendent, Indianapolis Public Schools, in her official capacity, 1:22-cv-01075, the plaintiff alleged the new law violated the child’s rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 as well as the equal protection clause.
On the discrimination claims, A.M pointed to Bostock and Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified Sch. Dist. No. 1 Bd. of Educ., 858 F.3d 1034 (7th Cir. 2017), to support her arguments.
Magnus-Stinson likewise relied on those decisions.
“Courts within this district have followed Whitaker and Bostock, finding that it is a violation of Title IX for a public institution to discriminate against an individual on the basis of their transgender status in the context of prohibiting a transgender student from using the bathroom of the sex with which he or she identifies,” the judge wrote, citing B.E. v. Vigo Cnty. Sch. Corp., — F. Supp. 3d —-, 2022 WL 2291763 (S.D. Ind. June 24, 2022), and A.C. by M.C. v. Metro. Sch. Dist. of Martinsville, — F. Supp. 3d —-, 2022 WL 1289352 (S.D. Ind. April 29, 2022).
“… IPS and the Superintendent cannot discriminate against A.M. based on her sex, and § 20-33-13-4 will force them to do just that,” Magnus-Stinson continued. “A law that prohibits an individual from playing on a sports team that does not conform to his or her gender identity ‘punishes that individual for his or her gender non-conformance,’ which violates the clear language of Title IX.”
Further, Magnus-Stinson noted the law only pertains to transgender girls, and the “singling out of transgender females is unequivocally discrimination on the basis of sex, regardless of the policy argument as to why that choice was made.”
The district court also found that A.M. established an irreparable harm for which there is no adequate legal remedy and that both the balance of harms and the public interest favor issuing an injunction.
The state’s motion to exclude the opinions of Dr. James Fortenberry, A.M.’s motion to exclude expert testimony and the state’s motion for leave to file surreply in opposition to the plaintiff’s motion to exclude expert testimony were all denied as moot. The district court also declined to allow five female athletes to file an amicus brief in favor of the state.
Indiana Lawyer has sent a request for comment to the attorney representing the defendants.