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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City leaders joined 31 other cities, counties and mayors Thursday in a "friend of the court" brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that transgender students should be able to choose which use bathrooms they use at school.
The amicus brief runs counter to those signed in January by faith leaders, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and state attorneys general, including Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski reiterated the city's commitment to protecting LGBT rights and defending "principles of equality" in a prepared statement Thursday.
"This is no longer an issue of states' rights, it's an issue of equality and education," Biskupski said. "We should be focusing on helping our kids access books and not trying to control where they go to the bathroom."
The Salt Lake City School District currently has a gender nondiscrimination policy in place, which includes gender identity, according to the mayor's office.
The brief was filed in the case of Gavin Grim, a 17-year-old transgender boy in Virginia, who is challenging a policy from the Gloucester County School Board ordering him to use a single-stall restroom rather than the boys' restrooms at school. Gavin was born female but identifies as male.
Last May, former President Barack Obama handed down a directive saying public schools must allow students to use facilities corresponding with the gender they choose. President Donald Trump lifted that guidance last month.
In addition to Salt Lake City, the list of cities joining in the brief includes San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle. The participating cities are home to a substantial number of the country's transgender population, according to the filing.
"Transgender individuals are our classmates, our neighbors, and our co-workers, yet many face a daily reality marked by exclusion and violence," the brief states.
The brief goes on to argue that ordering transgender students to use an individual bathroom or other facilities, such as a locker room, selectively excludes them from their peers in a "separate but equal" standard.
"Exclusion from appropriate restrooms denies transgender students the equal access to education that Title IX guarantees," the brief states. "It visibly marks them as different from their peers, thereby exposing them to increased risk of violence and harassment; it also requires them to miss class and activity time to visit bathrooms that may not be conveniently located."
Argument before the Supreme Court is scheduled for March 28.
Earlier this year, the LDS Church joined five other faith groups in a friend of the court brief opposing the federal ruling that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms matching their stated gender identity.
The brief's purpose was to "inform the court about the sharp clashes with religious belief and practice that will arise if the court interprets the term 'sex' in Title IX to include gender identity," according to a copy of the brief.
In addition to the LDS Church, the friends listed in that brief included the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Christian Legal Society.
The state of Utah joined a separate amicus brief, also in opposition to the Department of Education. In it, the attorneys general of 21 states, including Reyes, made an argument over federal funds.