Swing-State Voters Sharply Split Over Transgender School Bathroom Laws

By Lydia Goerner Published on June 23, 2016

Voters in three prominent swing states are divided over whether individuals should be able to use the public bathrooms that correspond to their professed gender identity, especially in public schools, according to a new Quinnipiac University study.

“Voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania oppose the federal government order to public schools that they must let transgender students use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. But they are split roughly evenly on whether these students should be able to use whatever bathroom they choose,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

The study polled registered voters in Florida, finding that “48 percent of voters say transgender people should have the right to use public bathrooms consistent with their gender identity,” but only 37 percent say they would support requiring enforcement of this in public schools.

In Ohio, “48 percent of voters say transgender people should not be allowed to choose a bathroom, while 43 percent support that right.” Voters oppose the bathroom mandate 55 – 36 percent.

In Pennsylvania, the third state polled, 49 percent of voters agreed that people claiming to be transgender should be able to use their facilities of their choice, but 53 percent of those polled don’t think public schools should be forced to make students share bathrooms with classmates of the same sex.

The three states polled will likely prove crucial in the upcoming presidential election, according to Politico. No presidential candidate has won without winning at least two of these three states.

The Issue

The Quinnipic polling comes in the wake of the White House notifying all public schools last month that they must allow students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, Politico reported. If the schools do not comply with this mandate, they risk being sued or losing federal funding.

The Obama administration did this by rewriting Title IX, a federal law that does not allow schools to discriminate against students “on the basis of sex.” Obama unilaterally — and, as Stream legal expert Rachel Alexander argues, unconstitutionally — expanded the meaning of the law to include “gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status.”

The Associated Press reported in May on the obligation of public schools to “treat transgender students in a way that matches their gender identity, even if their education records or identity documents indicate a different sex.” This did not impose new legal requirements, but was intended to clarify expectations for schools receiving federal funding.

By issuing this directive, the Obama administration was “wading anew into a socially divisive debate,” AP said. The recent study from Quinnipiac University highlights how controversial the issue is and how divided Americans are.

The battle over the Obama directive is already well underway in the courts, including in Ohio.

The Highland Local School District school district is suing the U.S. departments of Justice and Education over the directive. The district was threatened with losing its federal funding after school officials refused to allow biologically male students to use female locker rooms and bathrooms. The Alliance Defending Freedom took on the case, as well as similar ones in Illinois and North Carolina. Suits have also been filed in at least nine other states.

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