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Quinn Emanuel Fights for Transgender Rights in Landmark Case

Firm News

Firm authors and files amicus brief on behalf of National Women’s Law Center and fifty other women’s and civil rights organizations

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP filed an amicus brief today on behalf of the National Women’s Law Center and fifty of other women’s and civil rights organizations in Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, Florida, a landmark transgender rights case currently scheduled for en banc review before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

The case involves Andrew Adams, a transgender boy, who has challenged his school’s policy that discriminates against him by refusing to allow him to use the boys’ restroom. At birth, Andrew was incorrectly designated as “female” by doctors, even though he is a boy. When Andrew began his freshman year at Nease High School in St. Johns County, Florida, he was living full-time as a boy. At school, Andrew was treated by school officials as a boy in all respects but one: They forbade him from using the boys’ restroom. The school’s discriminatory policy caused Andrew great physical and psychological distress.

Lambda Legal brought suit on Andrew’s behalf against the St. Johns County School Board, asserting violations of Andrew’s rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 ("Title IX"), 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Following a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Andrew on both claims, awarding him injunctive relief and damages – including an order that the school could no longer enforce its discriminatory restroom policy. A three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the trial court, but that decision was vacated when the full court decided to rehear the case.

The National Women’s Law Center and 50 additional women’s and civil rights organizations have filed an amicus brief supporting Andrew and encouraging the Eleventh Circuit to affirm the trial court’s decision.  As the brief argues, Andrew should be allowed to use the boys’ restroom because he is a boy. The brief explains how allowing Andrew and other transgender students the same access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity does not challenge the existence of single-sex restrooms.  The brief further details how the school’s discriminatory restroom policy not only fails to advance any purported safety or privacy interests of non-transgender students, but how social science demonstrates that such policies jeopardize the physical and mental health as well as the safety of transgender students.

“The National Women’s Law Center and the 50 other groups we represent decided to get involved in this case because they cherish the notion that all people – regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity – deserve equal protection under the law,” said Laura Ferguson, an associate at Quinn Emanuel who is counsel of record on this brief.

“I am honored to have the privilege of appearing as counsel of record in this case, fighting for Andrew’s rights and for the equal treatment of transgender youth, and I’m grateful to the organizations for giving me this opportunity” Ferguson added. “It’s incredibly rare for law firms to give an associate the chance to play such a high-profile role in such an important case. These are opportunities that Quinn Emanuel regularly gives associates, and that’s why I wanted to join this law firm.”

“This is an incredibly important case, not only for Andrew but for all transgender students who deserve the same educational opportunities as their peers,” said Quinn Emanuel partner Todd Anten. “We are proud to be handling this case pro bono on behalf of the National Women’s Law Center and the 50 other organizations joining this brief.”