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U.S. Supreme Court punts Virginia transgender bathroom case back to lower court after Trump’s rights rollback

Gavin Grimm

Gavin Grimm

The U.S. Supreme Court remanded a transgender bathroom case in Virginia back to a lower court as a result of President Donald Trump’s rollback on protections for transgender students.

In sending the case back, the high court avoided ruling on the matter and vacated a judgment in favor of plaintiff Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old student who was born female and identifies as male.

The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further consideration in light of the guidance document issued by the Department of Education and Department of Justice on February 22, 2017.

Gavin sued the Gloucester County School Board, a public school, over the right to use the boys’ restroom, arguing that the school’s refusal violated Title IX prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sex and 14th Amendment equal protection provisions.

In April, the 4th Circuit sided with Gavin based on former President Barack Obama’s administration’s interpretation of the anti-discrimination law. Nationwide guidance issued last year informed public schools that transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice and indicated that states could lose education funding if they were out of compliance.

The Trump administration’s guidance leaves the decision up to states.

Gavin’s case is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia, the Human Rights Council, and other organizations. Apple, IBM Corporation, Microsoft and 50 other companies have also filed briefs with the court in support of Grimm.

Joshua Block, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT Project and lead counsel for Grimm, released a statement after the Supreme Court’s order saying that the action does not change the meaning of the law.

“Title IX and the Constitution protect Gavin and other transgender students from discrimination,” he said. “While we’re disappointed that the Supreme Court will not be hearing Gavin’s case this term, the overwhelming level of support shown for Gavin and trans students by people across the country throughout this process shows that the American people have already moved in the right direction and that the rights of trans people cannot be ignored. This is a detour, not the end of the road, and we’ll continue to fight for Gavin and other transgender people to ensure that they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, has said the organization was paying close attention to Gavin’s case because it could have implications on its challenge to House Bill 2.

The ACLU, ACLU of N.C. and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the sweeping anti-LGBTQ law, which, among other things, bans transgender people from accessing restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. would have been the Supreme Court’s first discrimination case involving transgender people.

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