Transgender Law Center is representing Seamus Johnston, a former honors student at the University of Pittsburgh, in his sex discrimination lawsuit against the university. Mr. Johnston is a transgender man. During his three years at the University of Pittsburgh, he consistently lived as male and used men’s restrooms on campus. He has also changed most of his identity documents to reflect his male gender.
During the spring and fall semesters in 2012, Mr. Johnston was enrolled in a men’s weight lifting class, and used the men’s locker room to change for class without any problems. In the fall semester, though, the University suddenly informed Mr. Johnston that he was no longer permitted to use the men’s restrooms or locker rooms on campus unless he obtained a new birth certificate or court order reflecting his male gender. He continued using the men’s facilities and the University engaged in a campaign of persecution against him, having him arrested and criminally prosecuted, and eventually expelling him, causing him to lose his full scholarship.
Mr. Johnston filed a federal lawsuit against the University in the Western District of Pennsylvania, arguing that the University violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title IX of the Education Amendments, the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act, and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act.
The University filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on February 10, 2014, arguing that none of those laws protects transgender students from discrimination. On behalf of Mr. Johnston, Transgender Law Center filed a brief in opposition to that motion on April 2, 2014. Our brief makes clear that it is well established that laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex include protections against discrimination against transgender people. The brief explains that these nondiscrimination laws must be understood to guarantee transgender students equal access to sex-specific spaces on the basis of their gender identity.
Mr. Johnston is also represented in this case by pro bono co-counsel Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver, & Jacobson, LLP.