June 28, 2021

Faegre Drinker and ACLU Achieve Milestone Victory on Behalf of Transgender Student

A Faegre Drinker pro bono team and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU) brought a years-long case on behalf of a transgender student to a successful conclusion, which was made possible by the team’s successful appeal before the Illinois Commission on Human Rights on behalf of a transgender student who was discriminated against by his school.

The Faegre Drinker team that partnered with the ACLU included business litigation partner Colby Kingsbury and product liability and mass torts associate Blake Angelino. The firm entered the case in June 2017 after the Illinois Department of Human Rights dismissed all counts in the plaintiff’s complaint. Faegre Drinker appealed the matter to the Illinois Human Rights Commission, arguing that the matter should not have been dismissed because clear evidence demonstrated that the school district in question denied the client full and equal access on the basis of sexual orientation.

Faegre Drinker argued that treating the client differently because he was transgender was discrimination. The firm’s attorneys asserted that forcing the client — a transgender youth who was born female and transitioned to male — to change behind a partition in the boys’ high school locker room constituted unlawful discrimination.

While it took more than two years, in 2019, the Human Rights Commission agreed and reversed the findings of the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Following the successful appeal, the team was permitted to file a full complaint before the Illinois Human Rights Commission, much of which was litigated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Strategic discovery, including requests for admission, allowed the team to provide targeted pressure and force an advantageous settlement.

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