THE FIGHT FOR TRANSGENDER PEOPLE'S RIGHTS IS BEING FOUGHT EVERY DAY
The ACLU champions transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming people’s right to be themselves in any situation, including at school, on the job, and in all public places. The information below is intended to help transgender people stay informed of your rights and request assistance. The information on this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Every case depends on the specific facts and circumstances involved. To submit a complaint for review, please Request Assistance.
Know Your Rights in K-12
You have the right to be yourself in school. Public schools are required to respect your gender identity and expression. If you’re being harassed or bullied or see it happening to someone else, you should report it immediately to an administrator, counselor, or other school official.
Schools will sometimes make the claim that they can’t honor a student’s name or pronouns because they must use a student’s legal name. This is not true as there is no law that says schools can only use a student’s legal name. Although your legal name may have to appear on your transcript, your school is able to use your preferred name and pronouns on other things such as class rosters, on your student ID, on your report cards, and in the yearbook. If you legally change your name, all your records can be updated to correspond with your new legal name.
Further, under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), personal student information in school records is confidential and protected. This means that, in most cases, a student’s status as a transgender person, their legal name, and gender assigned at birth cannot be revealed by the school without permission from the student or the student’s parents if the student is a minor. Unfortunately, we sometimes see school officials unaware of these restrictions. To ensure your privacy, you may need to proactively explain this to your school’s administrators.
Students have a right to use school restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity. If you’re having a problem, try pointing to the school’s own policies or local and Nebraska state laws about discrimination in education or “public accommodations," and/or Title IX. You can cite the “sex” category in anti-discrimination policies in support of your position. Some districts, such as Omaha Public Schools, have an anti-discrimination policy that explicitly protects gender identity and sexual orientation. The U.S. Department of Education provides example policies to incorporate in schools to protect transgender students’ rights. Gender neutral restrooms are awesome, but no one should be forced to use only those.
Public schools can have dress codes, but federal law says dress codes can’t treat students differently, force students to conform to sex stereotypes, or censor particular viewpoints. That means that schools can’t create a dress code based on the stereotype that only students of one particular gender can wear a specific type of clothes. For example, your school can require that skirts must be a certain length, but can’t say only some students can wear skirts that otherwise comply with the dress code. That also applies to pants, ties, or any other clothing associated with traditional gender roles.
Freedom of Expression
Some schools require school uniforms or ban t-shirts, buttons, wristbands, or other garments or accessories that express students’ views. Schools can do that if the policy is applied equally to all viewpoints. If they do allow students to express themselves through what they wear, they can’t ban rainbows, Pride symbols or slogans, or messages about LGBTQIA+, feminist or political issues or identity. School officials often try to justify censoring student expression by claiming it’s disruptive, when what they’re really worried about is that other students or their parents might not like it. But courts have consistently ruled that a school’s concern about other people’s reactions to a political message or image doesn’t justify censoring it.
If you’re punished or told you have to change out of something you’ve already worn to school, remain calm and polite. Complying with an order from a school official doesn’t affect your right to challenge it later on. However, arguing or not cooperating might make it harder to fight for your rights later. Keep copies of any paperwork the school gives you and contact the ACLU as soon as you can. Contacting the ACLU is confidential; any communication between you and the ACLU will be kept private.
Dances, Graduation, and Events
Schools shouldn’t require different types of clothing for special events such as prom or graduation based on students’ sex or gender identity. For example, schools cannot require boys to wear only tuxedos or require that girls wear only dresses to prom. All students should be allowed to wear clothing consistent with their gender identity and expression, no matter whether they identify as transgender or cisgender. If you’re a trans girl, can you run for homecoming queen? If you’re a trans boy, can you wear a tuxedo to prom? Yes!
Starting a Gay-Straight Alliance or Pride Alliance
Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) are student-led and student-organized school clubs that aim to create a safe, welcoming, and accepting environment for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. GSAs are valuable for individuals who question their identity, have LGBTQIA+ friends or family members, or care about LGBTQIA+ issues.
Federal law protects students at public schools who wish to start a GSA. The Equal Access Act requires public schools that allow at least one student-led extracurricular clubs to meet on school grounds outside of class time, and must allow other student-led groups regardless of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings. The Act also requires schools to provide the same access to meeting spaces and school publications.
For more information on how to start a GSA at your school, visit the ACLU’s step-by-step guide.
If you're trying to start a GSA at your school and your administration tries to stop you, or if they don't allow the GSA to do things that other extracurricular clubs do, contact the ACLU of Nebraska for assistance.
At the high school level, the Nebraska State Activities Association (NSAA)’s Gender Participation Policy establishes the requirements for transgender students wishing to participate in gendered athletics. Trans student-athletes must seek approval from both their school and NSAA Gender Identity Eligibility Committee. In order to do so, they must provide the Committee with information regarding the student’s consistent gender identity and expression from the student, their parents, their peers, friends, teachers, and medical professionals. Trans girls must also establish evidence that they have “completed a minimum of one year of hormone treatment related to gender transition or undergone medically confirmed gender reassignment procedure,” and must provide proof of medical testing showing that the student-athlete “does not possess physical or physiological advantages.” This is not a requirement for trans boys or nonbinary student athletes. After obtaining this information, the Committee convenes to decide if they will approve the student-athlete.
Once students pass that hurdle, they must then deal with the issues regarding locker room/bathroom access. The NSAA’s policy states that even if an athlete is competing on a team according to their gender identity, unless they have had gender affirming surgery, they will be asked to use either private locker rooms/restrooms or locker rooms/restrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth. While the policy provides a pathway to athletic participation for transgender student-athletes, we also recognize that the policy as it is now is outdated and doesn’t meet best practices or the needs of trans student-athletes.
At the college level, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes guide outlines policies for the inclusion of transgender student-athletes in member athletic programs. The NCAA’s policy does not require gender affirming surgery for participation and addresses a host of other issues regarding participation. After a recent wave of hateful anti trans bills started moving through state legislatures the NCAA reaffirmed its commitment to equity and fair competition for trans athletes.
The ACLU of Nebraska has advocated for a more inclusive athletics policy and will continue to fight for all students’ ability to participate in athletics - including trans student athletes. If you experience discrimination in public school athletic participation, contact the ACLU of Nebraska for assistance.
Know Your Rights at College
Public colleges generally offer more legal protections than private schools, but, depending on the situation and the source of funding your institution receives, private colleges are also subject to certain legal standards. Contact the ACLU of Nebraska if you have a question--we’ll help you figure it out.
At institutions that receive federal funding, including many private ones, sex discrimination is banned under the federal law known as “Title IX.” It requires schools to proactively ensure a campus free from discrimination and to have procedures for handling complaints. The ACLU believes this covers discrimination against transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming students in the same way that the Supreme Court ruled Title VII prevents employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Universities can require “same sex” campus housing, but transgender students should be housed based on their gender identity.
Too many trans students sadly still face harmful and painful harassment from their peers and even school officials. While the law does not safeguard against all such bullying, it does require universities to do something about harassment when it’s so bad that it’s preventing you from getting an education. Colleges often also have their own anti-harassment policies that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
Federal law protects your medical records. For example, your doctor at the university health center can’t tell anyone whether you’re taking hormones or having sex. Your educational records are protected too and you can ask your college to correct information in your records like your name and gender marker. Trans students shouldn’t have to be outed by their transcripts.
Students have a right to use school restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity. If you’re having a problem, try pointing to the school’s own policies or local and Nebraska state laws about discrimination in education or “public accommodations," and/or Title IX. You can cite the “sex” category in anti-discrimination policies in support of your position. The U.S. Department of Education provides example policies to incorporate in schools to protect transgender students’ rights. Gender neutral restrooms are awesome, but no one should be forced to use only those.
Freedom of Expression
The First Amendment protects many freedoms at public universities, like the right to discuss queer topics, express your gender identity, or wear t-shirts stating your views. Your campus group has the same right as any other group to bring in guest speakers, throw dance parties, or organize Pride events. And public colleges can’t censor LGBTQIA+ messages based on viewpoint or just because they think it's “controversial.”
Know Your Rights as a Trans Adult
The ACLU champions transgender people’s right to be themselves.
We’re fighting discrimination in employment, housing, and public places, including restrooms. We’re working to make sure trans people get the health care they need and we're challenging obstacles to changing the gender marker on identification documents and obtaining legal name changes. We’re fighting to protect the rights and safety of transgender people in prison, jail, and detention facilities as well as the right of trans and gender nonconforming students to be treated with respect at school. Finally, we’re working to secure the rights of transgender parents. If you experience discrimination in any of these areas, contact the ACLU of Nebraska for help.
Sexual orientation and gender identity have no correlation with how well a person can do their job, and the United States Supreme Court agrees. On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County declared that the employment protections against sex discrimination found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified as 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This means that federal law forbids employers from discriminating against someone due to their sexual orientation or gender identity regarding any aspect of employment. This may include hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
For more details, refer to the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If you are experiencing discrimination in employment due to your sexual orientation or gender identity, you can file a complaint with either the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission (NEOC) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is not necessary to file a claim with both agencies. Both can investigate Title VII claims. If you file a claim with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission, they will dual file it with the EEOC. If you file a claim with the EEOC, they will dual file it with the NEOC.
If you live in the City of Omaha, you can also file a complaint with the Omaha Human Rights and Relations Department (OHRRD). The OHRRD can investigate complaints of discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodation. Through a contract with the federal government, they investigate EEOC complaints and HUD complaints of discrimination.
If you live in the City of Lincoln, you can choose to file a complaint with the Lincoln Commission on Human Rights (LCHR). Like the OHRRD, the LCHR can investigate complaints of discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodation. Through a contract with the federal government, they investigate EEOC complaints and HUD complaints of discrimination.
Trans Military Ban
On January 25, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform. This action repealed a Trump-era ban on transgender people serving in the United States military. The President’s Executive Order directed the Department of Defense to reexamine and correct records of service members discharged or denied reenlistment because of gender identity issues under the previous Trump policy. It also ordered the Secretary of Defense and Homeland Security to start implementing the order for the military and the Coast Guard.
On March 31, 2021, the Department of Defense announced that they had updated and published the policy updates for transgender military service.
Effective April 30, 2021, the Department of Defense’s policies: 1) prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity; 2) provide a means to serve in one’s self-identified gender; 3) provide a way to obtain medical treament, transition while in service, and receive recognition in one’s self-identified gender; 4) prevent service members from being involuntarily discharged or denied reenlistment based solely on gender identity; and 5) seek to protect the privacy of all servicemembers and to treat all service members with dignity and respect.
Generally, there are three ways to secure health insurance - through your employer; public options like Medicare or Medicaid if you meet program eligibility; and individual plans purchased through State Insurance Exchanges.
In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created the "Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities" rule, which declares that discrimination based on sex includes gender identity and expression in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age by health care programs that receive federal funding, are administered by a federal agency or were created by the ACA. Programs that receive federal funding include insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmacies that accept or administer Medicaid or Medicare.
Note: This regulation does not apply to the Veteran's Health Administration or the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.
Under Section 1557, qualifying insurance companies cannot reject coverage of medications related to gender transition, such as hormones. Refusing to cover gender-specific treatment, such as birth control for transgender patients, is also considered discrimination. Therefore, if an insurance company covers medications for non-transgender patients, it cannot refuse to cover the same medication for transgender patients. While insurance companies retain the right to determine the medical necessity of treatment on a case-by-case basis, the gender expression of a patient cannot be factored into that decision. Additionally, the Biden Administration has recently announced that the Department of Health and Human Services affirms that federal laws forbidding sex discrimination in health care also protect gay and transgender people.
For more information on health care coverage, visit the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Health Coverage Guide.
If you are denied medical care or treatment because you are transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming, please contact the ACLU of Nebraska.
There are currently no laws in Nebraska that provide LGBTQ inclusive insurance protections. If your insurance is provided through your employer, you can advocate to your employer to ask them to include transgender-related healthcare. If you receive insurance through the state marketplace, you can visit Out2Enroll’s guide for more information on selecting a care provider.
The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund’s Trans Health Project provides a wonderful guide for navigating and understanding insurance and how to get the care to which you are entitled, including how to apply for coverage and how to challenge a denial of care.
Medicare and Medicaid
Medicare and Medicaid are separate and distinct government-run programs. They are operated and funded differently and serve different groups. Medicare is a federal program that provides health coverage if you are 65+ or if you have a disability, no matter your income. Medicaid is a joint state and federal program that provides health coverage based on your income.
Medicare is one of America’s most important health programs, providing health insurance for tens of millions of adults over 65 and people with disabilities. As with private insurance, transgender people sometimes encounter confusion about what is covered or barriers to accessing coverage—both for transition-related care and for routine preventive care. Medicare generally provides access to trans affirming care.
Nebraska's Medicaid policy explicitly excludes transgender health coverage and care. Medicaid is a lifeline for many Nebraskans and the ACLU of Nebraska will continue to advocate for trans and gender-nonconforming people to have better access to essential medical care.
LGBTQ patients facing discrimination based on either their gender identity or nonconformity with sex stereotypes at hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, or other medical providers that accept Medicare or Medicaid (as well as other forms of federal funding) can file complaints of discrimination with the Office for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you experience this discrimination, you can also contact the ACLU of Nebraska for help.
The state employee health plan explicitly excludes coverage of transition-related care.
In 2020, Lincoln’s Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird announced the city’s healthcare benefits would cover gender transition-related costs for employees.
In February 2021, the Lincoln City Council voted to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQIA+ youth. This move bars counselors, psychiatrists, and therapists from subjecting LGBTQIA+ minors to harmful conversion therapy practices which attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of patients. A bill that would enact similar protections statewide has been introduced in the Nebraska Legislature but has not passed into law.
All too often, parents who have transitioned or come out as transgender after having children have seen their gender transition raised by their ex-spouse or partner as a basis to deny or restrict custody or visitation. Transgender people who formed families after transitioning have faced challenges to their legal status as parents, often based on attacks on the validity of their marriages. If you are in need of assistance, contact the ACLU of Nebraska.
Due to a successful ACLU lawsuit in 2017, Nebraska no longer bans LGBTQIA+ people from fostering or adopting children. We’ll continue to fight efforts to allow discriminatory treatment of LGBTQIA+ people by religiously-affiliated child welfare agencies that contract with states to serve the needs of children in state custody.
Housing & Homeless Shelters
No one should be denied a place to live simply because of who they are. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in five transgender people experience discrimination when looking for housing.
Federal rules protect access to housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Equal Access Rule ensures all HUD-assisted or insured housing programs are open to all eligible individuals and families regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status. On April 22, 2021, HUD affirmed their “commitment that no person be denied access to housing or other critical services because of their gender identity.” This includes equal access to sex-segregated shelters.
HUD regulations apply to public and assisted housing and rental assistance programs, including homeless shelters and other temporary housing. The regulations establish that housing providers cannot deny you access to a homeless shelter, deny you a mortgage loan, or set different terms, conditions, or privileges for sale for rental of a dwelling because you are transgender or because they perceive you as not conforming to gender stereotypes.
After the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission announced that they would start investigating and resolving housing cases alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The ACLU of Nebraska is committed to protecting people from discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. If you are denied a place to live or shelter because you are transgender, nonbinary or gender nonconforming, please contact the ACLU of Nebraska.
Hate crime laws require law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes committed with bias. Nebraska does have a hate crimes law that addresses crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender, but it does not explicitly include crimes motivated by gender identity.
The Lincoln Police Department also has a dedicated LGBTQIA+ law enforcement liaison, Captain Jeri Roeder.
If you are a victim of violent or hostile behavior because of your sexual orientation or gender identity and feel that law enforcement is not addressing the offense properly, contact the ACLU of Nebraska.
If you fear returning to your home country due to past or future persecution because of your gender identity or sexual orientation, you can claim asylum in the United States. Deciding whether to apply for asylum is a difficult decision and should be done with the help of a competent immigration attorney or Department of Justice representative. If you are granted asylum, you will be authorized to stay in the country and eventually apply for Legal Permanent Residency (green card). If you are denied asylum and do not qualify for any other immigration relief, you risk deportation. To receive free or low-cost immigration legal services or for a list of immigration attorneys, contact the Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistance Hotline (NILAH) at (855) 307-6730. For more information on NILAH, visit: nilah.org.
Know Your Rights While Voting
Every vote matters and your voice deserves to be heard.
Every vote matters and your voice deserves to be heard. If you are transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming, you may have had problems in the past with someone questioning your identity because of your name, gender marker, or photo on your ID or you may simply be nervous about whether this might happen. No one should question you about your identity, but this guide should help you if they do. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions for transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming voters in Nebraska.
How do I vote? Why should I?
The ACLU has some helpful resources about how (and why) to vote: https://ourvoteourfight.aclu.org.
What if I don’t look like my ID photo anymore?
No problem. Except in certain situations listed below, voters do not need to show any form of identification to vote. Even in the limited situations where a poll worker may ask to see your ID, you are never required to show photo ID to vote in Nebraska.
If you are asked for identification, you can present a current and valid photo ID, or a copy of a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other government document which is current at the time of the election and which shows the same name and residence address of the voter that is on the precinct list of registered voters.
If you bring any of these documents with you, make sure they match your name and current address.
If you do show the poll worker a photo ID, they should not be looking at the gender marker to verify your identity. A poll worker cannot prevent you from voting just because you don’t look like your picture or what the poll worker thinks you “should” look like based on your name or gender marker.
What do I do if a poll worker asks to see an ID?
As a general rule, if you are already registered to vote and you are voting in your precinct, you do not need an ID to vote.
But remember: Nebraska never requires a photo ID. If a poll worker asks for one, don’t be afraid to tell them that Nebraska does not require a photo ID to vote and report it to the National Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).
What if I changed my name since I last registered to vote?
If you have legally changed your name, you will need to re-register to vote. If you are unable to do so before an election's registration deadline, you are still allowed to vote. If you changed your name and still live in the same county, you will be allowed to vote at the polling place designated for your residence.
A poll worker may ask you to complete a certification and new registration form. The poll worker will either give you your ballot or a provisional ballot.
What if I moved since I last registered to vote?
As long as you have moved from one residence to another in the same county, you are allowed to vote at the polling place for your new address. A poll worker may ask you to complete a certification and new registration form. The poll worker will either give you your ballot or a provisional ballot.
If you moved to a different county in the State of Nebraska, you must re-register in the new county to be eligible to vote.
What is a provisional ballot?
In Nebraska, by law, you have the right to request a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots ensure that a voter is not excluded from voting due to an administrative error.
If your name does not appear on the precinct list of registered voters, you are eligible to vote by provisional ballot if:
- You claim you are registered to vote;
- Since you registered to vote you have continuously resided in the county where the precinct is located;
- Since you registered to vote you have not voted or registered to vote in another county;
- You appear at the polling place assigned to your address; and
- You complete and sign a new voter registration application before voting.
You are also eligible to vote by provisional ballot if your name does appear on the precinct list of registered voters and your name has a notation that you must show ID to complete your registration, but you did not bring the required identification to the polling place. You will need to also complete a new voter registration application at that time.
If you vote by provisional ballot, the election commissioner or county clerk will verify that your ballot is eligible to be counted. You can check to see if your ballot was counted starting November 13th by visiting https://www.votercheck.necvr.ne.gov/voterview or calling toll-free 1 (888) 727-0007.
What happens if the poll worker still isn’t letting me vote?
If the poll worker refuses to provide you your ballot or a provisional ballot, you should immediately contact Civic Nebraska’s Election Day Hotline and tell them what is going on. They are available to provide immediate assistance on election day.
- (402) 890-5291
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/civicnebraska
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/CivicNE
You can also contact the National Election Protection Hotline.
- English: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)
- Español: 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682)
- Asian & Pacific languages: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683)
- Arabic: 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287)
- American Sign Language video call number: 301-818-VOTE (301-818-8683)
Fight for your right to vote. If all else fails, demand to vote by provisional ballot. If you cast a provisional ballot, you’ll need to follow up with your local election authority with additional information for your ballot to be counted and to determine if your ballot was counted.