“Trans youth deserve to use the bathroom in peace without being humiliated and stigmatized by their own school boards and elected officials,” he said in a statement.
The Supreme Court left in place lower court rulings that found the policy unconstitutional. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas voted to hear the board’s appeal.
David Corrigan, an attorney for the school board, declined to comment on the decision.
In its petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, the school board argued that its bathroom policy poses a “pressing federal question of national importance.”
The board argued previously that federal laws protect against discrimination based on sex, not gender identity. Because Grimm had not undergone sex-reassignment surgery and still had female genitalia, the board’s position has been that he remained anatomically a female.
In this July 23, 2019, file photo, Gavin Grimm, who has become a national face for transgender students, speaks during a news conference held by The ACLU and the ACLU of Virginia at Slover Library in Norfolk, Va.
Credit: Kristen Zeis
Credit: Kristen Zeis
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Grimm in his lawsuit, argued that federal law makes it clear transgender students are protected from discrimination. A U.S. District Court judge and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled that the board’s policy violated Title IX, a federal civil rights law barring sex-based discrimination in any school that receives federal money. They also found it violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by prohibiting Grimm from using the same restrooms as other boys and forcing him to use separate restrooms.
“This is the third time in recent years that the Supreme Court has allowed appeals court decisions in support of transgender students to stand. This is an incredible victory for Gavin and for transgender students around the country,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project.
The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear Grimm’s case in 2017, but it was sent back to the lower courts after the Trump administration withdrew the government’s support for Grimm’s claims.
Paul D. Castillo, an attorney for the LGBT rights group Lambda Legal, said Monday that five states are technically bound by the 4th Circuit decision: Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
But he said that it “would be hard to imagine a court that would not take this victory into account.”
“Importantly, decisions of federal appellate courts, particularly when denied review by the U.S. Supreme Court, are often cited in subsequent decisions for their persuasive value in analyzing the legal issues,” Castillo wrote in an email.