Appeals Court rules that lower court should hear case of Virginia transgender student

Student Gavin Grimm, who is suing to be allowed to use the boys' bathroom at the local high school in Gloucester County, Virginia, U.S. is seen in an undated photo.
Student Gavin Grimm is suing to be allowed to use the boys’ bathroom at the local high school in Gloucester County, Virginia, U.S. (Reuters)

RALEIGH – The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today in the case of a Virginia transgender student saying his Title IX claim against the Glouchester School District should proceed to trial.  Sixteen-year-old Gavin Grimm sued the school board in September saying that the high school should let him use locker and restroom facilities designated for males, even through he is anatomically a female.

The school did permit Grimm to use the male facilities last year until parents objected.  When the conflict reached the county school board level in July, members heard from speakers and then voted 6-1 to enforce sex-specific policies in multi-user bathrooms and locker rooms.

The decision of the Federal three judge panel overturned a district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction against allowing Grimm access to the male facilities.  The decision remands the case, allowing Grimm’s attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union to proceed with their claim that the policy violates federal sex discrimination law under Title IX, which says that schools receiving federal funding are prohibited from discrimination based on sex.

Appeals court Judge Paul V. Niemeyer wrote the dissenting opinion saying that the majority’s opinion “completely tramples on all universally accepted protections of privacy and safety that are based on the anatomical differences between the sexes.”

The case has been watched for months because the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over five states, including North Carolina, which just enacted a law requiring that individuals using multi-stalled accommodations in government buildings, including schools, must use the one designated for the sex listed on their birth certificate.

“Today’s ruling makes plain that North Carolina’s House Bill 2 violates Title IX by discriminating against transgender students and forcing them to use the wrong restroom at school,” said the ACLU of North Carolina, claiming that the decision affirms their assertion that enforcing single-sex restrooms puts North Carolina’s Title IX funding in jeopardy.

Tuesday’s decision does not rule on the legality of sex-specific multi-stalled accommodations, but does say that the lower court should hear the case.  N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger released a statement quickly after the decision came down.

“People need to wake up:  Roy Cooper, Barack Obama and two unelected federal judges are on the verge of completing their radical social reengineering of our society by forcing middle school-aged girls to share school locker rooms with boys,” said Berger.  “House Bill 2 was our effort to stop this insanity, and I hope this proves the bathroom safety bill has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with protecting women’s privacy and keeping men out of girls’ bathrooms.”