Earlier today, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of PLF clients Dmitri Moua and Zachary Greenwald, reversing the district court’s denial of their motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the Minnesota State High School League from banning boys from participating in competitive dance. Agreeing with PLF, the 8th Circuit held that Minnesota’s discriminatory girls-only dance rule likely violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If you’ll recall, Dmitri and Zach are Minnesota high school juniors. Both boys love to dance, and have done so for years—often with the same girls who are on their schools’ teams. But when they went to try out for their respective schools’ teams, they were told that a state rule prohibits boys from participating in dance. In order to support their friends, and not wanting to leave the dance program entirely, both boys agreed to serve as the manager for each of their schools’ teams.
Now, though, Dmitri and Zach will no longer be kept from dancing solely because they are boys.
Whenever the government discriminates on the basis of sex, it is only permissible if the discrimination is substantially related to an important government interest. In this case, the government argued that banning boys from dance was necessary to remedy discrimination against girls in Minnesota high school athletics. But as the 8th Circuit recognized, that argument ignores the data.
In fact, for the two previous school years, boys were underrepresented in athletics in Minnesota, not girls. As a result, the government can no longer have an interest in continuing to discriminate in favor of girls when the problem has already been remedied. Otherwise, the government could continue discriminating in perpetuity. Further, the evidence in the case showed that very few boys have an interest in participating in dance in Minnesota, so it is unlikely that allowing boys to dance will return Minnesota to a situation where girls are again underrepresented in athletics.
Because the government was unable to sufficiently justify its discriminatory dance rule, the 8th Circuit directed the lower court to issue a preliminary injunction to allow Dmitri and Zach to try out for their dance team while the case proceeds. This is a great success not just for Dmitri and Zach, but also for the right to be free from discrimination based on outmoded and offensive stereotypes.