Non-profit looking into lawsuit over bill affecting transgender students

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Fear of litigation against the state has been brought up for months concerning a bill that passed the Legislature Thursday.

The amended bill limits transgender athletes’ participation in public school K-12 sports.

The legal concern is primarily among Democratic lawmakers, while Republicans say the costs are speculative at this point.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota says expensive lawsuits should be expected.

In Idaho, the District Court found a similar state law, banning transgender women and girls from participating in women’s athletics, to be unconstitutional. ACLU of North Dakota Attorney, Andrew Malone, says it’s currently on appeal and could cost the state up to $10 million when all is said and done.

In fact, Malone says the non-profit is looking into bringing a lawsuit against North Dakota on behalf of private citizens if the bill is ultimately signed by Gov. Doug Burgum.

Lawmakers in support of the bill add the Attorney General’s office has often defended challenges to state statutes and that the potential for litigation shouldn’t hinder the bill’s passage.

Malone says, typically, both sides pay for their lawyer’s fees, win or lose, but civil rights lawsuits are different.

“Congress has explicitly carved out this exception to that general rule to say, anytime that someone is bringing a claim saying that their constitutional rights have been violated, which is what a claim against this law will look like, that if they are successful — and we are confident that this person would be successful — that it is the other side that would have to pay their attornies fees,” Malone explained.

The ACLU of North Dakota says House Bill 1298 violates both the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which protects everyone in the U.S. from discrimination based on sex.

The non-profit is requesting that the Governor veto the house bill, now sitting on his desk. They sent a letter to this effect Friday.

Malone says if there is anyone who believes the bill will prevent them from playing sports, contact the ACLU of North Dakota directly.

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