A transgender teen who was barred from using the men's restroom at his high school was handed a victory by a federal court of appeals this week, clearing the way for a discrimination lawsuit against his school board's decision to restrict his bathroom access.
According to the opinion published by the 4th Circuit court of appeals, Gavin Grimm, a trans male, had been given approval to use the men's bathroom at his Gloucester County, Virginia, high school by administrators. He was, however, subsequently denied access after his local school board passed a policy banning him from those facilities. Grimm sued, arguing that this constituted a violation of the title IX protections which ban discrimination based on gender in schools which receive federal funding.
As the Washington Post reports, that suit was initially blocked by a U.S. district judge last year, who both denied Grimm's request for an injunction against the ban, as well as approved his school board's request to have the lawsuit dismissed entirely.
The 4th Circuit's decision effectively reverses that ruling, and allows Grimm to move forward with his legal action. In its opinion, which refers to Grimm by his initials ("G.G."), the court writes:
Because we conclude the district court did not accord appropriate deference to the relevant Department of Education regulations, we reverse its dismissal of G.G.’s Title IX claim. Because we conclude that the district court used the wrong evidentiary standard in assessing G.G.’s motion for a preliminary injunction, we vacate its denial and remand for consideration under the correct standard.
"It’s a complete vindication for the education department’s interpretation of Title IX,” Joshua Block, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who represented Grimm, said to The Post, which points out that the education department has said students should have access to bathrooms which align with that person's gender identity, and not their biological sex.
Not only does this recent decision have immediate implications for Grimm and his lawsuit, but it may impact as well the future of North Carolina's House Bill 2, the so-called "Bathroom Bill," which was passed by that state's legislature and signed into law late last month. 4th Circuit Court has jurisdiction over North Carolina.
As NC state senator Jeff Jackson explained in a recent Facebook post, the 4th Circuit's ruling may jeopardize $4.5 billion dollars of federal aid to his state. Writes Jackson:
Just to put that in perspective: $4.5 billion is roughly what we pay for our entire university system PLUS our entire community college system PLUS all of our teacher assistants PLUS all the money we get from the lottery PLUS the stretch-goal we have this year for teacher raises.
Speaking with MSNBC in this past January, Gavin put his legal ordeal in perspective, saying "If my fight and my struggle helps even one child not have to go through this, I will consider that an enormous success. I’m not doing this just because I’m thinking solely about myself; I’m doing this also in the hopes that it might help anyone else. That’s what motivates me."