Judge Tells Anti-Trans School Board To Do Anatomically Impossible Things To Itself
Gavin Grimm has, once again, won his case!
The now-20-year-old man first filed his case against the Gloucester County School Board when, as a teen, he was denied access to the boys bathroom at Gloucester County High School in Virginia.
The reason? Gavin Grimm is transgender. And it has become important to Republicans and bigots everywhere that trans and nonbinary people don't feel comfortable using public toilets.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit ruled in Grimm's favor, finding the school had violated Title IX of of the Education Amendments of 1972 when it banned him from using the boys room.
As the Fourth Circuit noted, Grimm use the boys room for the first few weeks of his sophomore year of school with no problems. Gloucester County High School only banned him from being able to pee after the superintendent and school board "began receiving numerous complaints" from transphobes "not only [...] within that school district but also from adults in neighboring communities and even other states."
Eventually, the school decided that it should discriminate against trans students by forcing them to use the bathroom of the sex they were assigned at birth. It also decided to create a separate but equal single stall for trans students to use, because apparently that is still something we do to accommodate bigots.
The Fourth Circuit saw through all of the school board's bullshit. The transphobes actually argued that their "separate but equal" bathrooms for trans students were fine, because other students could choose to use the segregated single stall bathrooms if they wanted to (even though trans students were the only ones required to use them).
[T]hat is like saying that racially segregated bathrooms treated everyone equally, because everyone was prohibited from using the bathroom of a different race. No one would suppose that also providing a "race neutral" bathroom option would have solved the deeply stigmatizing and discriminatory nature of racial segregation; so too here.
The school board had even argued that Gavin's "choice of gender identity did not cause biological changes in his body, and Grimm remain[ed] biologically female."
Luckily, the opinion called out this fuckery, noting that,
embedded in the Board's framing is its own bias: it believes that Grimm's gender identity is a choice, and it privileges sex-assigned-at-birth over Grimm's medically confirmed, persistent and consistent gender identity. The policy itself "recognizes that some students question their gender identities," and states that such students have "gender identity issues." Grimm, however, did not question his gender identity at all; he knew he was a boy. The overwhelming thrust of everything in the record—from Grimm's declaration, to his treatment letter, to the amicus briefs—is that Grimm was similarly situated to other boys, but was excluded from using the boys restroom facilities based on his sex-assigned-at-birth. Adopting the Board's framing of Grimm's equal protection claim here would only vindicate the Board's own misconceptions, which themselves reflect stereotypic notions. (quotation marks omitted)
Judges Henry Floyd and James Wynn, both Obama appointees, were in the majority. Judge Paul Niemeyer, a daddy Bush appointee, dissented and said a whole bunch of bigoted shit that we aren't going to reprint here.
This win was a long time coming. Grimm first filed suit in 2015, when he was 15 years old and still a student at Gloucester County High School. The Fourth Circuit ruled in his favor and the case went up to the Supreme Court in 2017. However, by that time, Trump had rescinded Obama's Title IX protections for transgender students, so the Supreme Court punted and sent the case back to the lower courts.
Unfortunately for Gavin, this legal war probably still isn't over yet. The hateful bigots at the Gloucester County School Board can either ask the full Fourth Circuit to rehear the case en banc or just try to go straight to the Supreme Court.
Thankfully, Grimm's chances at the Supreme Court don't look too bad this time around! Trans rights had their biggest SCOTUS win ever last term, when Justice Gorsuch decided to do the right thing in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, and acknowledge that Title VII, a different section of the Civil Rights Act, protects transgender people from employment discrimination.
The Fourth Circuit relied heavily on Bostock in this opinion, quoting Justice Gorsuch at length. (These judges know their audience — Gorsuch would probably the deciding vote if this case ever got up to the Court.) Like Gorsuch wrote there,
An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what [the CIvil Rights Act] forbids.
And that's not all. Last year, the Supreme Court denied cert (decided not to hear the case) in Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, which raised the same legal issues. This usually — though not always! — indicates that the justices either (1) think the case was rightly decided below; or (2) don't feel like dealing with that issue right now, thank you.
This is a huge win, not just for Gavin Grimm and the ACLU, but for trans kids everywhere — and especially students in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina — the region the Fourth Circuit covers.
After the ruling, Grimm released a statement reminding us of how important his fight is:
All transgender students should have what I was denied: the opportunity to be seen for who we are by our schools and our government. Today's decision is an incredible affirmation for not just me, but for trans youth around the country.
Look, good things DO still happen occasionally!
Congratulations to Gavin and his lawyers at the ACLU and ACLU of Virginia on their huge win!
Here's the opinion!
Follow Jamie on Twitter!