The Supreme Court decided not to hear a Virginia school board’s appeal of a lower court decision to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. In doing so, the court handed a victory to Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who sued his school when he was forced to use only private restrooms or gendered restrooms that matched his sex assigned at birth.
Both the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit had already ruled that the school board violated Title IX, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, and the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by not allowing Grimm to use the same restrooms as other boys. Although the Supreme Court was supposed to hear Grimm’s case in 2017, they sent the case back to the lower courts because the Trump administration withdrew the government’s support for Grimm’s claims.
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The court’s refusal to take the case does not mean that the Fourth Circuit’s decision establishes a national precedent, but it will apply to public school students in states covered by the 4th, 7th, and 11th Circuits, CNN reported.
The Gloucester County school board’s appeal was rejected by the court, with only Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas voting in favor of hearing the case. The school board had argued in a petition that the bathroom issue was a “pressing federal question of national importance.”
Although Grimm graduated from high school during the six-year legal fight that began when he was a teen, he said he is happy it has ended with a victory. “I am glad that my years-long fight to have my school see me for who I am is over,” Grimm said in a statement. “Being forced to use the nurse’s room, a private bathroom, and the girls’ room was humiliating for me, and having to go to out-of-the-way bathrooms severely interfered with my education. Trans youth deserve to use the bathroom in peace without being humiliated and stigmatized by their own school boards and elected officials.”
In a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone, Grimm echoed comments by trans activist and actress Laverne Cox about this fight. “It’s not about bathrooms, it’s about the trans people’s right to exist in public spaces,” Grimm told Elisabeth Garber-Paul. “I think that’s something that needs to be reiterated, for sure.”
Grimm added that he was glad his case was being taken seriously. “It wasn’t very long ago that this case wouldn’t have made it anywhere,” he said. “But there’s enough acceptance in the world now to where we can have a conversation about it and so I think that’s a very positive thing no matter the outcome. So I think that’s something that I need not discount.”
Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBTQ & HIV Project, which represented Grimm’s case, said in a statement: “This is the third time in recent years that the Supreme Court has allowed appeals court decisions in support of transgender students to stand. This is an incredible victory for Gavin and for transgender students around the country. Our work is not yet done, and the ACLU is continuing to fight against anti-trans laws targeting trans youth in states around the country.”
The Biden administration has also affirmed that it interprets Title IX as protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination. “The Supreme Court has upheld the right for LGBT+ people to live and work without fear of harassment, exclusion and discrimination,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement earlier this month. “Our LGBT+ students have the same rights and deserve the same protections.”
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