Appeals court rules in favor of VA transgender teen in bathroom


Appeals court rules in favor of VA transgender teen in bathroom case

Gavin Grimm (Source: NBC12) Gavin Grimm (Source: NBC12)

A federal appeals court in Richmond sided with a Virginia transgender student and overturned a ruling barring him from using the boys' restroom because he was born as a female.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with 16-year-old Gavin Grimm on Tuesday in his case against the Gloucester County school system's bathroom policy. The district requires students to use either the restroom that corresponds with their biological gender or a private, single-stall restroom.

The appeals court decision reverses the prior ruling and could have repercussions on a controversial North Carolina bill along the same lines.

The three-judge panel reversed and vacated the ruling in part and remanded it back to district court, saying it "was guided by erroneous legal principles.”

Because we conclude that the district court used the wrong evidential standard in assessing G.G.’s motion for a preliminary injunction, we vacate its denial and remand for consideration under the correct standard. We therefore reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. 

For Grimm, this case started when the school system barred him from using the Men's restroom. The ACLU is helping the high school junior, who was born a girl, fight against him being forced to use the ladies room or a specially designed unisex facility. 

Attorneys for the school system argued in court that anyone can use the unisex bathroom and a Title IX violation has not taken place.

“I feel so relieved and vindicated by the court’s ruling,” said Grimm in a press release from the ACLU of Virginia. “Today’s decision gives me hope that my fight will help other kids avoid discriminatory treatment at school.”

The case is the first taken by the federal court of appeals and the fourth circuit includes North Carolina. The ACLU believes it will be a bellwether in setting a precedent for other school boards to look at when they’re looking at these sorts of decisions throughout the country.

“Gavin’s fight has been a beacon of hope in the face of increasingly hostile rhetoric against transgender people in Virginia, and across the nation,” said Gail Deady, the Secular Society Women’s Rights Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia. “The court’s ruling sends a strong message to schools and lawmakers that discriminatory restroom policies don’t just harm transgender students, they put Title IX funding at risk.”

The Family Foundation of Virginia decried the ruling saying "the social chaos that would ensue from ignoring biological reality will inevitably bring tremendous harm to our children and limit freedom, not expand it."  

"Hopefully, as this case proceeds, a reasonable judge or court will step in and reaffirm that our children have the dignity of basic privacy rights in bathrooms and showers," wrote Victoria Cobb, President of the Family Foundation of Virginia. "Anything short of that will put vulnerable children at tremendous emotional, physical and developmental risk.” 

DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz praised the ruling.

"This court victory affirms that there is no commonsense reason to bar transgender students from using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity and that doing so is discriminatory and harmful," said Schultz. "Republican legislators who continue to push anti-LGBT measures and the Republican presidential candidates who fan the flames of discrimination with ignorant rhetoric have been exposed by this ruling for what they’re truly peddling."

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