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Iowa judge says transgender woman faced discrimination

Monday, March 11, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — A state administrative law judge has ruled that a transgender woman should not have been ordered out of a courthouse women’s restroom by a sheriff’s deputy.

The judge decided in favor of Jodie Jones, who has been presenting herself as a woman since May 2011, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. The ruling by Administrative Law Judge Heather Palmer came last Tuesday.

Jodie Jones
Image via Iowa City Press-Citizen

Jones, 56, filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission after a November 2011 incident in which she says she was confronted by a female sheriff’s deputy after going into a women’s restroom in the Johnson County Courthouse.

Jones said the deputy yelled at her to leave immediately. Jones complied, but said she told the deputy she had a legal right to use the restroom. Jones said the deputy replied she had to leave “regardless of what the law is.”

Under Iowa law, it is discriminatory to deny a person use of a public accommodation based on their gender identity. The commission also says state law requires that individuals be permitted access to public facilities in accordance with their gender identity, rather than their sex at birth, without being harassed or questioned.

“Frankly, I was extremely dismayed that when I told the sheriff’s deputy what the law said, she said, ‘I don’t care.’ They’re officers of the law; they should have to follow the law, too,” Jones said. “I don’t want this to happen again at the Johnson County Courthouse.”

The deputy, who is now retired, acknowledged asking Jones to leave the restroom, but denied yelling at Jones. The deputy testified that she had seen Jones in female dress before, but denied knowing Jones was transgender until she received the civil rights complaint.

Judge Palmer concluded there was probable cause supporting Jones’ claims of discrimination on the basis of gender identity, sex and sexual orientation in a public accommodation.

The judge said Jones was dressed as a woman previously at the courthouse and when she used the women’s restroom, so the deputy “had sufficient information to conclude Jones was a transgendered woman.”

Jones said she intends to sue the county unless the two sides can come to a suitable settlement. She said that must include an admission of wrongdoing by the sheriff’s department.

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