Appeals court rules in favor of transgender-identified teen in school bathroom case

Student Gavin Grimm, who was barred from using the boys' bathroom at his local high school in Gloucester County, Virginia, U.S. is seen in an undated photo. Grimm was born a female but identifies as a male.
Student Gavin Grimm, who was barred from using the boys' bathroom at his local high school in Gloucester County, Virginia, U.S. is seen in an undated photo. Grimm was born a female but identifies as a male. | (Photo: Crystal Cooper/ACLU of Virginia/Handout via Reuters)

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a trans-identying student as it pertains to use of school restrooms.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on Tuesday that Gavin Grimm, a biological female who identifies as transgender and has been at the center of a lengthy legal battle starting several years ago, had been discriminated against and that maintaining sex-specific bathrooms was a violation of Title IX, the civil rights statute pertaining to the educational arena.

The Richmond-based court held that for a school to prohibit a transgender-identified student from using the restroom of his or her "gender identity" is not constitutional.

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The two judges that ruled in favor of Grimm were appointed by President Barack Obama. The dissenting judge was a George H.W. Bush appointee.

“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,” Judge Henry Floyd wrote in the majority opinion. “We join a growing consensus of courts in holding that the answer is resoundingly yes.”

Writing in dissent, Judge Paul Niemeyer said that the Virginia high school had "reasonably provided separate restrooms for its male and female students and accommodated transgender students by also providing unisex restrooms that any student could use.”

“The law requires no more of it.”

The same appellate court had previously ruled in Grimm's favor in the original case and was set to be adjudicated at the United States Supreme Court in 2017 but it was vacated in light of the change of presidential administration that took place.

Earlier this month, a similar ruling was issued from the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals involving a transgender-identified teenager, a biological female, that had sued to force a Florida high school to allow her to use the boys' restroom.

Both cases cite the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that employers are not permitted to fire someone on the basis of sexual orientation and "transgender status." Doing so is a form of sex discrimination and under Title VII, the section of the Civil Rights Act pertaining to employment, the justices ruled in a 6-3 decision.

Although the Bostock opinion said that the ruling only pertained to employment matters, it is still being referenced in other legal decisions.

Transgender issues have been among the most contentious, hot-button debates in recent years and are animating the current presidential race.

Speaking at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night, Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of Billy Graham, argued that Democrats have been hostile to people of faith, citing as an example the party's pressuring of schools to permit males to compete in girls' athletics and allow them to use their locker room facilities.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has promised to reinstate Education Department guidance Obama instituted in 2016 that would again give transgender-identifying students access to sports, bathrooms, and locker rooms "in accordance with their gender identity." President Trump rescinded the guidance during his first months in office.

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