Federal Judge Rules Transgender Students are Protected Under Title IX and the U.S. Constitution

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Gavin Grimm
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Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund praises a decision this week by a federal judge in Virginia who ruled that transgender students are protected by the prohibitions against sex discrimination in Title IX, as well under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The decision is the latest federal ruling in the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender 18-year-old from Virginia who has been challenging the Gloucester County School Board’s discriminatory policy that prohibits transgender students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

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Grimm’s lawsuit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia, argues that the bathroom policy violates Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination by schools), as well as the Equal Protection Clause, and that he was injured by the school’s insistence on subjecting him to that policy throughout his high school years. The high profile case has wound its way through the federal court system going all the way to the Supreme Court, only to be remanded back to district court when the Trump Administration withdrew guidelines that protected transgender students.

“This week’s ruling denies the Gloucester County School Board’s attempts to have the case dismissed, affirms that Title IX and the Constitution protect trans students’ right to use restrooms that match who they are, and clears the way for Gavin Grimm to move one step closer to justice,” said TLDEF Senior Staff Attorney, Donna Levinsohn.

Levinsohn continued: “Significantly, the court specifically emphasised the ‘stigmatisation and physical and mental anguish inflicted upon’ transgender students forced to use bathrooms that do not conform with their gender identity. It also emphatically rejected the school board’s argument that its policy was justified by a concern for the privacy rights of other students, characterising that supposed concern as ‘based upon sheer conjecture and abstraction.’”

In March of 2017 TLDEF submitted a groundbreaking brief in this case when it was before the Supreme Court on behalf of 101 transgender Americans.

“TLDEF’s amicus brief in support of Gavin Grimm explored the lived experiences of transgender citizens, highlighting the positive contributions we make and articulating the immense harms of denying transgender people basic human rights like using bathrooms,” Levinsohn said.

The brief argued in part that transgender people “are everyday Americans with hopes, dreams, talents, successes and the desire to live a life fully realised. They seek basic freedom, respect and dignity so that they may continue to be positive participants in their communities.”  The brief also urged the court “not to accept an interpretation of Title IX that would reduce them and all transgender individuals to second-class citizens, but instead to promote the valuable contributions they make to American society.”

“TLDEF applauds Gavin Grimm’s continued bravery and stands by him in his fight to ensure that all trans students are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect in their schools,”  Levinsohn said. We also strongly commend the ACLU and ACLU of Virginia for their tireless work on this case. We wish Gavin and his team success as this case advances towards a resolution.”

Photo by Scout Tufankjian /ACLU

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