THE FIGHT FOR TRANSGENDER PEOPLE'S RIGHTS IS BEING FOUGHT EVERY DAY
If you are an LGBTQ Nebraskan, you may have experienced discrimination. Currently, there are no explicit statewide laws in Nebraska protecting people from being discriminated against for their gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or gender expression. However, some local communities have broader protections and there is a clear emerging trend in the courts affirming that LGBTQ Nebraskans may already have legal protection from discrimination under existing civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.
The ACLU champions transgender 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. However, you may need to explain this to your school’s administrators. If you want your information kept confidential, it is best to be clear that you don’t want to be outed by school personnel.
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 boys and girls 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 girls can wear some clothes and only boys can wear other types 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 LGBTQ, 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 an LGBTQ or 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!
The Nebraska State Activities Association policy requires that transgender students wishing to participate in gendered athletics show evidence of hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery to demonstrate a “consistent gender identity.” The policy calls for a review by an NSAA committee in cases of transgender females to ensure that they do not have physical advantages over genetic females of the same age group.
The policies around bathroom and locker rooms are more restrictive for athletics than they are for school. The NSAA policy states that even if an athlete is competing on a team in accordance with their gender identity, they will be asked to use either private locker rooms and restrooms or locker rooms and restrooms that correspond with their birth sex if they have not had gender reassignment surgery. The ACLU has advocated for a more inclusive athletics policy and will continue to fight for students’ ability to fully participate in athletics as they so choose. If you are discriminated against in regard to school athletic participation, contact the ACLU of Nebraska.
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.” The ACLU believes this covers discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming students, and gender-based discrimination against cisgender students. Colleges also must respond to sexual violence against LGBTQ students. And “same sex” campus housing can be required, but transgender students should be housed based on their gender identity.
You don’t have a right to never hear hurtful or painful things, but your public university must do something about harassment when it’s so bad that it’s preventing you from getting an education. And colleges often 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 LGBTQ 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 nothing to do with how well a person can do their job. Yet LGBTQ workers are sometimes rejected by employers, denied compensation and benefits, or even fired because of who they love or who they are. Refer to the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to learn about EEOC and the Enforcement Protections for LGBT Workers.
At the ACLU, we’re advocating for clear and explicit laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination on the job. During the 2019 legislative session, we supported LB 627, a bill explicitly protecting LGBTQ workers from discrimination in the workforce. While the bill did not pass, new survey data shows that the vast majority of Nebraska residents do favor job protections for LGBTQ individuals.
We’re also arguing in court to ensure that existing laws, including federal civil rights laws, are interpreted to include LGBTQ people in America’s promise of equal treatment. We won’t stop fighting until all people are entitled to fair consideration based on their job qualifications alone. If you experience employment discrimination on the basis of your sexual orientation or gender identity, contact us.
Trans Military Ban
Current U.S. Department of Defense regulations bar transgender persons from military service. In July 2015, the Pentagon announced the military will work on a policy that allows transgender soldiers to serve openly. For decades, transgender men and women have been barred from openly serving in the military, despite the fact that recent studies show that about one-fifth of all transgender adults are veterans, making transgender people approximately twice as likely as others to serve in the military. Requiring these brave Americans to continue to serve in silence is a profound injustice. The ACLU is committed to eliminating this outdated, unfair, and discriminatory ban. See our recent attempt to block the ban.
Many transgender people experience gender dysphoria, the medical term for incongruence between a person’s gender identity and their sex assigned at birth, where such incongruence results in clinically significant distress. Medically accepted standards of care for gender dysphoria include social transition, hormone treatment, and surgery. The goal of treatment for gender dysphoria is to alleviate distress by helping patients live in accordance with their gender identity. If not addressed, gender dysphoria places patients at great risk for depression, anxiety, self-injury, and suicide.
The ACLU filed a motion in 2016 to intervene in a case challenging a section of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits health care entities from discriminating based on race, national origin, sex, age or disability. The lawsuit, Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell, was filed by a group of states and religiously affiliated health care organizations who are suing the federal government.
A bill that would prevent psychologists from discriminating against patients based on their sexual orientation or gender identity was introduced in the Nebraska Legislature in 2018, but it stalled in the Health and Human Services Committee.
Insurance companies can limit coverage to care that is medically necessary, but they can’t deny medically necessary care based on who a patient is--that’s discrimination. LGBTQ patients facing discrimination based on either their gender identity or a 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. These should be filed with the Office for Civil Rights at HHS. If you experience this discrimination, contact the ACLU of Nebraska for help.
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 LGBTQ people from fostering or adopting children. We’ll continue to fight efforts to allow discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ people by religiously affiliated child welfare agencies that contract with states to serve the needs of children in state custody.
Currently, there are no Nebraska state laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing. During the 2019 legislative session, we supported LB 689, which prohibited discrimination by a landlord or seller on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, LB 689 did not pass, but we will continue fighting for our trans, gender nonbinary, and gender nonconforming neighbors.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development enforces regulations that ensure its programs are open to all eligible individuals regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The National Housing Law Project provides additional information related to equal housing access.
No one should be denied a place to live simply because of who they are. At the ACLU, we’re committed to passing federal, state, and local laws that protect people from discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression, and we’re also fighting in court to get justice for people who have experienced these kinds of discrimination. If you are denied a place to live because you are transgender, gender nonbinary, or gender nonconforming, please contact the ACLU of Nebraska.
Nebraska has no Voter ID requirement so you should not be asked to provide any form of ID, such as a state ID or drivers’ license, when voting. It shouldn’t prevent you from voting if your name does not match the name on the voter registration, but be prepared that you will have to provide the name that appears on your voter registration documents to poll workers and when filling out any paperwork. After confirming your registration, you can always ask the poll workers to refer to you as your name and pronouns. There is no requirement for poll workers to respect name and pronouns, but the ACLU of Nebraska does extensive outreach and training to foster a respectful atmosphere at the polls. If you have problems at the polls, contact the ACLU of Nebraska immediately at (402) 476-8091.
In Nebraska’s 2019 legislative session, a bill was introduced to provide for enhanced penalties and a civil action for crimes committed because of a victim's gender identity or association with a person of a certain gender identity and include strangulation in the offenses eligible for enhancement. LB 504 has not been advanced from the Judiciary Committee. While Nebraska does have a hate crimes law that addresses crimes motivated by sexual orientation or by gender, it does not explicitly include crimes motivated by gender identity. (Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-111). Nonetheless, if you are a victim of a hate crime and feel that law enforcement is not addressing the crime 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.