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Litigation Tracker: Fourth Circuit

Covers North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia

Outdated case law in the circuit has found that discrimination based on sexual orientation does not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

  • On October 31, 1996 the 4th Circuit ruled in Wrightson v. Pizza Hut of America that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • This precedent has been cited multiple times by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, including in a May 5, 2016 ruling in Hinton v. Virginia Union University, where the panel wrote, “Title VII affords no predicate for a claim of discrimination on account of sexual orientation.” The Wrightson ruling was also cited without discussion in Murray v. NC Dep’t of Public Safety, decided August 12, 2015.

A panel of the 4th Circuit is currently reviewing whether Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination against transgender students in the ACLU’s case Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board.

  • The 4th Circuit on April 19, 2016 ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, the transgender student at the center of the lawsuit, ruling that guidance from the Department of Education (which interpreted Title IX to protect transgender students) required the school district to allow Gavin to use the boys’ restroom. Nearly one year after that decision, after Gavin’s case was appealed to and briefed before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Department of Education guidance on Title IX was revoked and the case was remanded back to the 4th Circuit and later remanded down to the trial court to determine the status of the case.


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Fourth Circuit

Kadel v. Folwell

Case Concerning Discrimination in Health Care

Key Date: March 11, 2019 • Initial Complaint Filed
Status: Pending before District Court
Legal Team: Lambda Legal & TLDEF
Type: Public Accommodations Discrimination

Kadel v. Folwell is a case filed by Lambda Legal and TLDEF on behalf of North Carolina public employees, some who are transgender and others who are the family members of transgender people.

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Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board

Case Concerning Restroom Access for Transgender Students

Key Date: August 12, 2019 • Ruling Issued in Favor of Plaintiff
Status: Appeal Pending before 4th Circuit
Legal Team: ACLU
Type: Discrimination Targeting Transgender Students

Gavin graduated from high school in June 2017 – but his case has not yet ended. The ACLU has continued to represent him, and on May 22 of 2018, a federal district court ruled that his Title IX claim had merit.

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Stone v. Trump

Case Challenging Trump's Directive Banning Military Service for Transgender Americans

Key Date: April 12, 2019 • Anti-Transgender Military Ban Takes Effect
Status: Awaiting Further Action
Legal Team: ACLU
Type: Other LGBT Litigation

On August 28 Stone v. Trump was filed in the U.S. District Court for Maryland challenging Trump's attempt to reinstate a ban on open service for transgender people.

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