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High Court to rule in Virginia transgender case

Mark Sherman
Associated Press

Washington — The Supreme Court will take up transgender rights for the first time in the case of a Virginia school board that wants to prevent a transgender teenager from using the boys’ bathroom at his high school.

The justices said Friday they will hear the appeal from the Gloucester County school board sometime next year. The high court’s order means that student Gavin Grimm will not be able to use the boys’ bathroom in the meantime.

The court could use the case to resolve similar disputes across the country, said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Obviously, for transgender people, the stakes of this case are incredibly high. Whatever the court rules in Grimm may ensure that transgender people are accepted and included as equal members of our society, or it may relegate them to outsiders for decades to come,” Minter said.

A lower court had ordered the school board to accommodate Grimm, but the justices in August put that order on hold while they considered whether to hear the appeal.

Grimm, a 17-year-old high school senior, was born female but identifies as male. He was allowed to use the boys’ restroom at his school for several weeks in 2014. But after some parents complained, the school board adopted a policy requiring students to use either the restroom that corresponds with their biological gender or a private, single-stall restroom. Grimm is backed by the Obama administration in his argument that the policy violates Title IX, a federal law that bars sex discrimination in schools.

“I never thought that my restroom use would ever turn into any kind of national debate,” Grimm said in a statement issued after the court announced it will hear his case. “The only thing I ever asked for was the right to be treated like everyone else. While I’m disappointed that I will have to spend my final school year being singled out and treated differently from every other guy, I will do everything I can to make sure that other transgender students don’t have to go through the same experience.”

Gloucester County school board chairman Troy Andersen praised the court for agreeing to hear what he called a difficult case.

The Education Department says transgender students should be allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identities. Among the issues in the case is whether the department’s guidance should have the force of law.

Similar lawsuits are pending nationwide. The Obama administration has sued North Carolina over a state law aimed at restricting transgender students to bathrooms that correspond to their biological genders.

A federal judge in Texas has sided with Texas and 12 other states in issuing a nationwide hold on the administration’s directive to public schools, issued in May.