Supreme Court drops transgender bathroom access case
The justices said in a brief order Monday that they opted not to decide whether federal anti-discrimination law gives high school senior Gavin Grimm the right to use the boys’ bathroom in his Virginia school.
“This is disappointing for trans kids across the country and for Gavin, who are now going to be held in limbo for another year or two,” Joshua Black, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney who represents Grimm, told AP. “But Title IX means the same thing today as it meant yesterday. Lower courts already have held that it protects trans kids.”
Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, sued the Gloucester County, Virginia school board over bathroom access after he was denied access to the boy’s bathroom. The school board had passed a policy requiring all students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender assigned at birth. Grimm’s lawyers argued the school board “impermissibly discriminated against him” in violation of Title IX anti-discrimination laws and his constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
Monday’s decision comes after the Trump administration pulled back federal guidelines issued under the Obama administration advising schools to let students use the bathroom of their chosen gender, not biological birth.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia sided with the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX to side with Grimm, accepting the administration’s reading of the law without deciding for itself what the law and a related regulation on same-sex bathrooms and locker rooms mean.
AP reported that no appeals court has yet undertaken independent analysis, and “the Supreme Court typically is reluctant to do so without at least one appellate opinion to review, and usually more than one.”
Similar cases are pending in other parts of the country, so it is likely that other appeals courts also will weigh in about the reach of anti-discrimination protections for transgender students.
There is a challenge to a North Carolina law that requires transgender people to use bathrooms in government buildings that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates. The law has drawn protests, boycotts and lawsuits.
Grimm’s case was on the docket for March 28, but now be heard by the lower court again and tasked with evaluation how Title IX applies to transgender students.
Monday’s order makes it more likely the Supreme Court eventually will decide the issue with a full complement of nine justices. The Senate is considering Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the court’s year-old vacancy.