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A letter from the Department of Justice (DOJ) caused the University of Arkansas at Ft. Smith (UAFS) early this month to reverse policy and allow a 38-year old anatomically male-student permant use of women's bathrooms on campus despite opposition from female students.
The university made the reversal on "advice of counsel" after receiving a letter the DOJ sent in response to a complaint that a single, self proclaimed "transgender" student filed with the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
"Because of the stance we took, the individual filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Justice," Mark Horn who is the vice president of university relations explained in an interview with Campus Reform on Tuesday.
Jennifer Braly, the student who filed the complaint, calls himself "transgender" with a "gender identity disorder." Braly, however, remains anatomically a man and is currently raising money online for Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS).
Braly filed the complaint with the DOJ after the university initially told him to use the campus's several gender-neutral bathrooms instead of the women's restrooms.
"Some saw me using the women' public restrooms and complained," explained Braly in her online appeal for donations for surgery. "[O]ne problem to this is there are not unisex bathrooms in every building. Especially the two main buildings where most of my classes are, so I have to go to a completely different building to use the restroom."
The university offered to convert more current bathrooms into gender-neutral restrooms, but still Braly was unsatisfied and decided to sue.
"We tried to make reasonable accommodation and to find a common ground, converting the number of bathrooms on campus to gender-neutral," Horn from UA said on Tuesday.
Finally, however, it was the letter from DOJ that convinced the legal department and administrators at UA to yield to Braly's demands.
"[T]he office of civil rights basically made its expectations through the attorney and the decision was made to respond to that direction," said Horn. "[T]he DOJ complaint caused revisiting of our thinking."
"In the eyes of the law this individual [Braly] is entitled to use the bathroom that she identifies with," Horn concluded.
But in the eyes of at least some female students at UA, anatomy still matters.
''I disagree with allowing a male to use the female restrooms," Amanda Shook, a senior at UA told Campus Reform on Wednesday. "Even if they are a transgendered person, they are still a man, and should have to use the men's restroom."
Both DOJ and UA so far have refused to release the letter in question despite multiple requests from Campus Reform.
DOJ told Campus Reform that the records "pertain to a currently active Civil Rights Division enforcement and access to the records should therefore be denied pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A) since disclosure thereof could reasonably be expected to interfere with Civil Rights Division enforcement proceedings."
Braly also did not respond to requests from Campus Reform for comment by time of publication.
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