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Who has a civil right to use female bathrooms?

Associated Press Published: May 24, 2012
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Access to female bathrooms was granted to a male-anatomied transgender student at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith after the Justice Department wrote the school about the issue following a civil rights complaint from the student.

Jennifer Braly, a male-anatomied transgender student (age 38), filed a complaint with DOJ. The university changed his policy on bathroom access after the Justice Department's Office of Civil Rights wrote a letter to the university about the issue.

Braly wrote on an online forum that "the University called me into a meeting and told me I had to use unisex bathrooms and that was it. I can't use any male or female public bathrooms."

"We did try to make accomodation by creating gender-neutral bathrooms, and in fact increasing gender neutral bathrooms on the campus," Mark Horn, Vice Chancellor of University Affairs, told The Washington Examiner. "We revisited that decision in light of the complaint."

"[T]he office of civil rights basically made its expectations [known] through the attorney and the decision was made to respond to that direction," Horn told Campus Reform, which first reported on the topic. He modified that characterization of the event in an interview with The Washington Examiner,

Though he stopped short of saying that the Justice Department induced the policy change, Horn acknowledged that the university changed its policy after DOJ intervened. "There was some proximity of conversation to the advice we got from our counsel," Horn said. "Their advice to us came after conversations [with the DOJ] -- I'm assuming that."

Horn also confirmed to The Washington Examiner that the Justice Department wrote a letter to the university attorneys about the issue, though he did not personally read it. "I would just share with you that we revisited on the advice of counsel our thinking on that and opened the female restrooms to that individual," he said.

The Washington Examiner asked if Gov. Mike Beebe, D-Ark., believes that mail-anatomied, transgender students have a civil right to access female bathrooms. "Each university is independent, and it is up to their Board of Trustees and administration to determine policies and regulations that they feel best accomodate the rights of all students who attend," answered Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample. "Having said that, of course Governor Beebe feels that federal laws should be followed as interpreted by the Department of Justice."

Neither the office of Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., nor the Justice Department responded in time for publication to The Washington Examiner's inquiries about Braly's case.

Click to read full article at Washington Examiner


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