Who should decide whether a child should be allowed to identify as transgender?
In numerous locations across the country, school administrators are saying that they should be the ones to decide—and that they can keep such information from parents. That’s why over the past year, the ERLC has signed onto three different amicus briefs relating to issues of parental rights, transgenderism, and radical gender ideology in schools.
Two of the cases are currently in federal appeals courts while one is being heard by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In all three cases—
- Doe v. Madison Metro School District,
- Parents Defending Education v. Linn-Marr Community School District,
- and Parents Protecting our Children v. Eau Claire Area School District
—the school districts violated parental rights by allowing students to use names and pronouns at school different from those they were assigned at birth, without providing parental notification absent a student’s consent.
The ERLC is joining with other groups in contending that such policies violate the rights of parents in two principal ways.
- First, their fundamental right to direct the care and education of their children includes the right to decide where the child will attend school, but the school policy improperly denied them critical information to inform that decision.
- Second, by withholding such sensitive information when school officials, in their judgment, suspect parents might be insufficiently supportive, the school effectively labels those parents as abusive of their children, without affording them any due process protections as provided by both statutory and constitutional law.
The amicus brief is a way to introduce concerns ensuring that the possibly broad legal effects of a court decision will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case. An amicus brief is a learned treatise submitted by an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”), that is, someone who is not a party to a case who offers information that bears on the case but that has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist a court.
While it’s impossible to know how any particular amicus brief influences a justice or their decisions, such briefs are frequently cited in court rulings, showing that they can have an effect on legal outcomes.
Joining with state conventions
In two of the cases, the ERLC is joining the amicus with, among other groups, the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.
In the third case, we are joining with the Baptist Convention of Iowa.
When appropriate, the ERLC wants to come alongside our state conventions and bolster their work promoting sound public policy and pushing back on policies that are harmful to our communities. What happens in these three cases can have national implications, so we want to advocate on an issue—transgenderism—where the SBC has clearly spoken.
How the SBC has spoken
In 2014, messengers of the SBC passed a resolution on transgenderism. That resolution
- noted that “Some public schools are encouraging parents and teachers to affirm the feelings of children whose self-perception of their own gender is at variance with their biological sex”;
- expressed the SBC’s opposition to efforts to alter one’s bodily identity (e.g., cross-sex hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgery) to refashion it to conform with one’s perceived gender identity;
- and stated the SBC’s opposition to “all efforts by any governing official or body to validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy (Isaiah 5:20).”
The position was taken out of love of neighbor and a concern for human dignity. As the resolution states, “we love our transgender neighbors, seek their good always, welcome them to our churches and, as they repent and believe in Christ, receive them into church membership (2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Galatians 5:14)” and “we regard our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn acts of abuse or bullying committed against them.”
While all children, including those struggling with gender dysmorphia, should be treated compassionately, parents should be providing that counsel and care—not school administrators. Unfortunately, radical gender ideology is often being furthered in schools without the consent or in conflict with the wishes of parents. We believe that parents should have the right to know what is being taught to their children and any decisions that their child is making in regards to gender and sexuality.