JEFFERSON CITY – Southern Baptist attorney Jonathan R. Whitehead filed a friend-of-the-court brief March 26 with the Missouri Supreme Court in support of a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit against Blue Springs R-IV School District that would have authorized a girl identifying as a boy to use the boys’ locker rooms and restrooms at the high school, in disregard of the privacy rights of other students. Whitehead filed the brief on behalf of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a public interest law firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The ADF brief explains that the term “sex” in the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), the state’s nondiscrimination law, has always meant biological sex, not self-perceived gender identity. The courts should not re-define statutory terms to create new laws compelling people and schools to affirm new social theories regarding transgenderism. Rather, the current state law fully affirms students’ privacy rights.
“Schools have a duty to respect privacy and dignity for every student,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. “School locker rooms and restrooms provide a reasonable expectation of privacy from the opposite sex when young students are changing clothes or dealing with personal hygiene. That privacy is lost when gender identity advocates demand that ‘sex’ be reinterpreted to mean ‘gender identity,’ which refers to a fluid spectrum of self-perceptions ranging, as those advocates admit, from masculine to feminine to something else.”
“‘Sex’ means male and female, and the real differences between boys and girls are a real reason for privacy in locker rooms and restrooms,” McCaleb continued. “The Blue Springs School District was right to stand up for student privacy.”
A female student claiming a masculine gender (referred to in the lawsuit as “R.M.A.”) demanded access to boys’ locker rooms and restrooms at one of the district’s schools. The school, respecting the privacy rights of other students, declined to allow the student access to the boys’ facilities. The student then filed suit in state court, claiming a right to enter the boys’ locker rooms and restrooms under the Missouri Human Rights Act by interpreting its references to “sex” as “gender identity,” a meaning not found in the law and never intended by the law’s authors.
“The court below properly dismissed R.M.A.’s complaint because the Missouri Human Rights Act categorically protects sex but does not categorically protect gender,” the ADF brief filed by Whitehead in R.M.A. v. Blue Springs R-IV School District explains. “That holding fully comports with Missouri law recognizing a fundamental right to use public restrooms designated for the use of one’s own sex. By dismissing the legally unfounded claim, it protected the Respondent District’s interest in protecting the bodily privacy of all of its students. In contrast, R.M.A. is advancing a different interest, which is to obligate the government to affirm R.M.A.’s claimed gender. Such is outside the role of laws like the MHRA, which are aimed at eliminating sex-based invidious discrimination—not redefining what sex is.”
Jonathan Whitehead, who also serves as Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) legal counsel with his father, Michael, practices in Lee’s Summit and is a member of Abundant Life Church, a congregation affiliated with the MBC.