A Virginia school district has petitioned the US Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s decision to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
The case in question is centered on transgender teen Gavin Grimm, who sued the Gloucester County school board for the right to use school bathrooms and facilities that match his gender identity. The 4th Circuit ruled in favor of Grimm in April, declaring that denying Grimm the right to use the boys’ bathroom violates Title IX of the Education Act of 1972. Title IX bans discrimination based on sex.
The 4th Circuit’s ruling is being closely watched given that it has jurisdiction over North Carolina, which this year passed HB 2, a bill that made it illegal for transgender people to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.
This is the first time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the transgender bathroom war.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court issued an order allowing the school to keep its policy in place while the justices decide whether to hear the appeal. If the justices agree to hear the appeal, per the earlier order, the court’s order allowing the policy to stay in place will remain in effect until the justices reach a decision in the case.
The student, Gavin Grimm, is represented by the ACLU. The Obama administration, through interpretation of existing laws and regulations, has determined that the sex discrimination ban in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 includes a ban on anti-transgender discrimination.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the administration’s interpretation was a permissible interpretation, leading the district court in Grimm’s case to issue an injunction against Gloucester schools. The Supreme Court’s order, however, stayed that injunction for the time being — meaning Grimm, and any other transgender student, could not use the restroom that accords with their gender identity.
The lawyers for the school district frame the case as one not about transgender rights, but rather one about “agency behavior” in setting policies such as the Title IX interpretation advanced by the Obama administration…
The current composition of the Supreme Court — it has operated with only eight justices since Antonin Scalia’s death in February — could become a key factor in what happens next with the case.
It takes four justices to grant the certiorari petition and hear an appeal. It takes five votes, however, to reach a majority opinion. If the court accepted the case, and split down ideological grounds 4–4, the lower court’s decision in favor of Grimm and the administration would be left in place — but no national precedent would be set by the case.
Watch an interview with Grimm below.
(Image via Twitter)