Despite Immense Support for Transgender Equality, Supreme Court Sends Landmark Case Back to Lower Court

By Adam Polaski • March 6, 2017 • 10:38 am

This morning the United States Supreme Court issued an order to vacate and remand the lower court’s opinion in the case of Gavin Grimm, G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board. The case is being brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Virginia transgender boy named Gavin Grimm, who is challenging a policy in his local school district that singles out transgender students for discrimination and prohibits him from using the boys’ restroom at his school.

The Supreme Court’s order means that the case will be sent back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, lengthening a fight that a transgender teenager has already spent nearly half of his high school experience leading and enduring. The move means that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has already ruled in favor of Gavin and against a school district’s shameful attempt to restrict restroom access for transgender students, must rehear the case entirely. Supporters of transgender equality are making the case that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits schools from discriminating against students based on sex, also applies to discrimination based on gender identity.

The Supreme Court’s decision follows a request for additional briefing on how the Trump Administration’s recent choice to rescind guidance for public schools on respecting the dignity of transgender students. Make no mistake that today’s Supreme Court order is a direct result of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw Title IX guidance that affirmed the rights and dignity of transgender youth.

Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe said today:

“It’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court will no longer have its first opportunity to hear the full story of who transgender Americans are and why their families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers love them. This announcement speaks volumes to the ways that President Trump’s actions are already having devastating consequences for transgender youth across the country. All students, including transgender students, deserve to participate fully and succeed in school, and to feel safe and respected while doing so. We are disappointed in this delay to hear Gavin’s important and urgent experience of having been singled out for discrimination at his school because he is transgender. It has taken tremendous courage for a young transgender boy like Gavin to speak out so publicly. But every day Americans are continuing to grow in their understanding of what it means to be transgender, the work will continue, and fairness will win. We look forward to continuing to support Gavin and the ACLU in their litigation efforts.”

The disappointing move today also follows a long list of thousands of names from across the country filing “friend-of-the-court” briefs in favor of transgender equality and dignity. Thousands of people spoke out – including teachers and administrators from dozens of states, faith leaders of all different religions from every single state, other transgender students and their family members, state Attorneys General and city officials who say that cities are strengthened when no one faces legal discrimination, and law enforcement officials committed to protecting transgender Americans from harassment. These briefs were a powerful assertion that protecting all people from discrimination is an American value.

School districts across the country encompassing millions of students have had protections in place for transgender students for years without incident, including Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest public school system in California and the second largest public school district in the United States, serving 655,000 students. Those schools’ policies have not changed as a result of the Trump administration’s actions — they can and are continuing to protect transgender students.

The decision, however, does not change the fact that transgender students are challenging restrictions like the one Gavin Grimm faced. Litigation is currently pending before the Courts of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, 6th Circuit, 7th Circuit, and 8th Circuit. Eventually the question must be confronted and answered.

In the meantime, millions of Americans continue to support equal dignity and equality for transgender students and adults. This month Freedom for All Americans and our partners at The Ally Coalition, Athlete Ally, GLAAD, Transgender People of Color Coalition, Trans [email protected] Coalition, and Trans United Fund launched a new campaign called #EveryoneWelcome, where elected officials, celebrities, athletes, and everyday Americans are sharing videos and speaking out about why support for transgender people is a basic American value.

Learn more about the #EveryoneWelcome campaign here.

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