Supreme Court Grants Emergency Order in Transgender Bathroom Case

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

The Supreme Court has put a judge’s order on hold that would have allowed a transgender teen in Virginia to use the boys’ bathroom at his local high school.

Gavin Grimm, the 17-year-old student in the case who was born female but identifies as male, had previously won an appeal ruling deferring the federal government’s interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that states school districts may not discriminate on the basis of sex.  The law does not go into detail concerning gender identity protections.

Due to that decision, a federal judge had ordered the Gloucester County School board to allow Grimm to use the boy’s bathroom, which corresponds with his gender identity, while a student at the school.  The teen had sued the school over a policy they had implemented that required students to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificates.

The school district got the Supreme Court involved after an unsuccessful bid to block the order while it looks into a formal appeal.  While no reason was offered for their decision, five justices in all agreed to the request, writes Cristian Farias for The Huffington Post.  The decision means that Grimm will not be allowed access to the boy’s bathroom for at least the first half of his senior year.

Joshua Block, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing Grimm, said he was disappointed over the decision, adding that he was hopeful that Grimm would win in the end.

Grimm “will have to begin another school year isolated from his peers and stigmatized by the Gloucester County school board just because he’s a boy who is transgender,” Block said in a statement.

By the end of August the school board will formally request that the Supreme Court review the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals previous decision allowing Grimm to use the boys’ bathroom.  However, it will be months before it is decided whether the high court will agree.

“The school board welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision as the new school year approaches,” the Gloucester County School Board said in a news release. “The board continues to believe that its resolution of this complex matter fully considered the interests of all students and parents.”

Gavin will continue to use a private restroom so long as the hold is in place.  If the Supreme Court decides to not hear the case, the lower court’s order allowing him access to the boys’ bathroom will be reinstated, writes Adam Liptak for The New York Times.

While similar cases are occurring throughout the country, this notes the first time that the Supreme Court has weighed in on the topic of bathroom access in public areas for transgender people.

The federal Justice and Education Departments issued a directive in May that required schools to allow students use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity as a result of their interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 that states transgender rights are covered by Title IX.  However, as a result, 13 states have sued, calling the interpretation an “overreach.”