Appeals court sides with transgender students in Virginia bathroom case

Aug. 26 (UPI) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled in favor of a transgender man who sued his former high school in Virginia over restroom access.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it’s unconstitutional and a violation of Title IX for schools to require students to use only the bathroom of the gender with which they were born. The court voted 2-1 in favor of Gavin Grimm, who sued the Gloucester County School Board in 2015 after it implemented its bathroom policy.

“At the heart of this appeal is whether equal protection and Title IX can protect transgender students from school bathroom policies that prohibit them from affirming their gender,” the Judge Henry Ford wrote for the majority.

“We join a growing consensus of courts in holding that the answer is resoundingly yes.”

Grimm took to Twitter to thank the American Civil Liberties Union for backing his case against the school district.

“I can think of very little I could do in life more important than what I’ve done at just 21, so I’m going to spend my time trying to find it. This fight should not have had to happen, but damn did I have an amazing team of love around me to make things right. Thank you, everyone,” he also wrote.

In August 2019, a federal judge ruled in favor of Grimm, but the school board appealed the case to the 4th Circuit. The three-judge panel heard arguments in May in which the school board said the creation of a third, non-gendered bathroom should sufficiently accommodate transgendered students’ needs.

Grimm and his lawyers with the ACLU, though, said the school’s policy violated Title IX and 14th Amendment protections.

Circuit Judge James Wynn Jr., an appointee of former President Barack Obama, suggested in the May hearing that the school board’s creation of a third bathroom option amounted to segregation.

“You’ve established a class of people like Grimm. It’s separate but equal,” he said. “Like one of the black schools. I actually know cause I want to a few.

“So it’s nice to say they can go to the other school but nobody ever does that.”

Wynn said the use of a third bathroom was “stigmatizing” to students such as Grimm.

Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush, though, said Title IX — which forbids organizations that receive federal funds from discriminating against people on the basis of sex — does allow the discrimination of sexes in bathrooms.

In his minority opinion Wednesday, Niemeyer said that though he empathizes with Grimm’s circumstances, his role is to interpret the law.

“And the law, both statutory and constitutional, prohibits discrimination only with respect to those who are similarly situated,” he wrote.

“Here, Grimm was born a biological female and identifies as a male, and therefore his circumstances are different from the circumstances of students who were born as biological males.”

In March 2017, Grimm’s case reached the Supreme Court, which declined to hear arguments and sent the case back to a lower court.

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