Published January, 2003

Doe v. Bell, 754 N.Y.S.2d 846 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2003)

This case held that a state foster care facility violated the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL") by not reasonably accommodating plaintiff Jean Doe's needs related to Gender Identity Disorder ("GID") because they prevented her from wearing women's clothing. This case is a landmark decision in protecting transgender youths' rights to be free from discrimination and to express their sexual identity while in state custody.

Jean Doe was a 17-year-old who was diagnosed with GID and prefers to dress in female clothing. She resided in an all-male care facility used for short-term placement of boys in foster care. The facility allowed her to wear scarves, nails, brassieres and enhancers, but not women's clothes. Ms. Doe sought an order from the New York Supreme Court to allow her to wear women's attire, and the court found in Doe's favor. The court found that the term "disability" is broadly defined under the NYSHRL, and held that since GID was a clinically diagnosed condition, it fell within the definition. The court also found that the facility's clothing policy violated the NYSHRL by failing to make reasonable accommodations for Ms. Doe's disability.