The Supreme Court today sent a landmark case on transgender rights back to a lower court without reaching a decision. The March 6 action means the case of a Virginia transgender teen seeking to use the boys’ bathroom in his high school would most likely be in legal limbo until after he graduates.
The high court’s order said the federal appeals court needed to reconsider the case in light of the Trump administration’s Feb. 23 repeal of previous Obama-era guidelines that directed schools to let students use the bathroom of their gender identity.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals originally ruled in favor of the teen in his discrimination case against Gloucester County School Board. Now it will have to review the case again because of the new guidelines issued by Trump’s Departments of Education and Justice. The board’s policy blocks the teen, Gavin Grimm, from using the boys’ bathroom.
Instead Grimm is required to use a separate single-stall restroom that no other student is required to use, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Grimm.
Joshua Block, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT Project and lead counsel for Grimm, said they were disappointed that the Supreme Court will not be hearing Grimm’s case this term.
“Nothing about today’s action changes the meaning of the law. Title IX and the Constitution protect Gavin and other transgender students from discrimination,” Block said in a statement.
The federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, had relied on the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on gender, to side with Grimm. At issue is the interpretation of Title IX, on which the appeals court did not rule. The Trump administration revoked federal guidance, leaving it up to the states and local districts’ policies.
The Supreme Court announcement comes at a time when states and cities have passed laws and ordinances that are on both sides of the issue. However in the wake of protests and boycotts of North Carolina after the anti-transgender “bathroom bill” became law and the hard work of the trans communities to educate the public, support for transgender rights is growing. “The overwhelming level of support shown for Gavin and trans students by people across the country throughout this process shows that the American people have already moved in the right direction and that the rights of trans people cannot be ignored,” Block said.
“This is a detour, not the end of the road, and we’ll continue to fight for Gavin and other transgender people to ensure that they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
In responding to the Trump administration’s action last month, Laverne Cox, an actress from “Orange Is the New Black” and a trans activist, explained that there is more at stake in the fight for bathroom rights.
“It’s not really about bathrooms! When trans people can’t access public bathrooms, we can’t go to school effectively, go to work effectively, access health-care facilities. It’s about us existing in public space,” she said.