Supreme Court Won’t Challenge Lower Court’s Ruling In Transgender Bathroom Rights Case
Photo by MindStorm via Shutterstock
The Supreme Court denied the review of 22-year-old Gavin Grimm’s against Gloucester County School Board on June 28.
Grimm had been identifying as male since his 2014 freshman year at Gloucester County High and asked his school to treat him as such. Initially, Grimm agreed to the use of the nurse’s bathroom rather than the single-sex bathrooms located more conveniently throughout the school.
In one instance, a librarian had to drive Grimm home to use the bathroom as the nurse’s was locked. He soon began to feel “anxiety and shame surrounding [his] travel to the nurse’s office” and was allowed to use the men’s bathrooms in his school for seven weeks without incident.
Parents and other members of the community eventually complained to the school board about the arrangement, leading the board to adopt a policy requiring students to use the bathroom corresponding with their assigned gender at birth.
Board member Carla Hook proposed that students with “gender identity issues” be provided an alternate private bathroom. These facilities were inconveniently located for Grimm. He said he never saw any other students using the private restrooms.
This made him feel “stigmatized and isolated” as he was prohibited from using the same bathrooms as the other boys. Grimm recounts once having a friend drive him to a hardware store to use the bathroom, and on another occasion, having his mother pick him up early. Due to bathroom avoidance, Grimm suffered from urinary tract infections.
“Being forced to use the nurse’s room, a private bathroom, and the girl’s room was humiliating for me, and having to go to out-of-the-way bathrooms severely interfered with my education,” he said in a statement.
Grimm sued the board on June 11, 2015, at the end of his sophomore year. With the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as his representative, he alleged that the board’s restroom policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and constituted discrimination on the basis of sex, in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681.
The board also denied Grimm’s request to update his school records and after he graduated, refused to provide Grimm with transcripts that matched the “male” sex designation on his birth certificate. He later amended his complaint to add that the board’s refusal to respect his gender identity in these instances similarly violated equal protection and Title IX.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling in favor of Grimm on August 26, 2020, citing the refusal to let students use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity violates the federal law.
The ruling was made citing an Obama-era Education Department letter which was rescinded by the Trump administration in 2017, then again reinstated by the Biden administration. The board appealed the case, but the Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal meant his victory in the lower court remains intact.
The ruling in favor of Grimm’s six-year-old case comes a year after the Supreme Court ruled first ruled in favor of transgender rights, stating that federal civil rights law bars employers from discriminating against people based on their gender identity.
Policies prohibiting students from using the bathroom consistent with their gender identity will now be illegal in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. A legal national precedent was not set, so other states can still bring cases like Grimm’s to the courts in the future.
“We know that it sets a precedent in the 4th Circuit so that those kids no longer have to fight this fight. The answer has come, we’ve already done it,” Grimm told CBSN. “Hopefully it sets a precedent in other bathroom battles in other states where they will look to my case and use that to build an idea of how their case would go if they try to challenge that.”
Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito say they would have taken up the case.
Mixed reactions were posted on Twitter.
According to a press release sent to Scriberr News by Carol Dehoux, member of the Gloucester County School Board, the board currently has “no comment on the denial of the petition for Writ of Certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States in the Grimm case.”
Scriberr News reached out to the Gloucester County High School, Grimm and Side by Side, an organization to support LGBTQ+ youth, but none responded by press deadline.