Federal appeals court sides with student in Virginia transgender bathroom case

A federal appeals court handed a win to a transgender former student on Wednesday in a years-long fight over restroom policies, ruling that policies segregating transgender students from their peers are unconstitutional and violate federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education.

In its ruling, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals also said it was unconstitutional and in violation of Title IX to deny a transgender student accurate transcripts reflecting their gender identity.

The decision relies in part on the Supreme Court’s ruling this term that discrimination against people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“After the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, we have little difficulty holding that a bathroom policy precluding Grimm from using the boys restrooms discriminated against him ‘on the basis of sex,'” the ruling read.

The appeals court noted that while the claim of the former student, Gavin Grimm, was rooted in Title IX, the legal analysis would be the same as the Supreme Court’s evaluation of Title VII.

The transgender bathroom debate has long been a flash point for conservatives, and it was brought to the forefront during Tuesday night’s portion of the Republican National Convention by the Rev. Billy Graham’s granddaughter Cissie Graham Lynch, who told viewers that “Democrats pressured schools to allow boys to compete in girls’ sports and use girls’ locker rooms.”

Grimm’s case initially reached the Supreme Court in 2017, but the argument was canceled after President Donald Trump reversed an Obama administration rule that had directed schools to allow students to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The case was sent back to the Fourth Circuit, but after Grimm graduated in June 2017, he filed an amended complaint with the district court.

Grimm began fighting the Gloucester County School Board’s policies when he was a sophomore at a Virginia high school in 2015. As part of Grimm’s medical treatment for severe gender dysphoria, Grimm and his mother notified school administrators of his male gender identity and received permission for Grimm to use the boys’ restroom for almost two months. But once the school board began receiving complaints, it adopted a new policy denying him access to the boys’ bathrooms.

Grimm said in a statement following Wednesday’s ruling that the decision “is an incredible affirmation for not just me, but for trans youth around the country.”

“All transgender students should have what I was denied: the opportunity to be seen for who we are by our schools and our government,” he said.

Last year, a federal judge in Virginia also ruled in favor of Grimm, telling the school board it must recognize him as male and saying the board had violated his constitutional rights.

The judge awarded him one dollar in damages and told the school district to pay his court fees. The district was also told it must update his records to indicate he is male.

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