A Virginia student’s wish to use the men’s bathroom has escalated all the way to the Supreme Court. Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided to block a lower court ruling requiring the student’s school to let him use the men’s restroom.
Seventeen-year-old Gavin Grimm lives in rural Virginia, near Chesapeake Bay. Gavin was born a biological female, but pyschologically identifies as male. He has legally changed his name and is in the process of hormone therapy.
According to Gloucester County School Board policies, all students must use restrooms according to their physiological gender. Gavin sees this rule as discriminatory and has decided to sue.
US District Judge Robert G. Doumar ruled against Gavin in September. That decision was quickly overturned by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which argued that the school’s policies were in violation of Title IX of the education law – a rule banning discrimination on the basis of sex.
The appeals court’s decision gave Gavin the freedom to use whichever bathroom he preferred, but the Gloucester School Board pressed the issue, asking the Supreme Court to block the lower court’s order.
In a 5-3 vote, the Supreme Court granted the school’s request. The dissenting judges (who did not want to put the ruling on hold) were Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan. Justice Stephen G. Breyer sided with his four conservative colleagues in granting the stay until the Supreme Court could fully consider the case in the future.
“Depriving parents of any say over whether their children should be exposed to members of the opposite biological sex, possibly in a state of full or complete undress in intimate settings, deprives them of their right to direct the education and upbringing of their children,” argued the school board’s lawyers.
The case is significant because it is the first time in which the departments of Justice and Education have argued that Title IX applies to the issue of bathrooms and transgenders. The federal agencies insisted that all students must be allowed to use whichever bathroom they believe matches their identity – a position shared by the Obama Administration.
Circuit Court Judge Paul Niemeyer hotly insists that the ruling allowing Gavin to use the men’s restroom is wrong. “The majority’s opinion, for the first time ever, holds that a public high school may not provide separate restrooms and locker rooms on the basis of biological sex,” he writes. “This holding completely tramples on all universally accepted protections of privacy and safety that are based on the anatomical differences between the sexes,” he continues. “This unprecedented holding overrules custom, culture, and the very demands inherent in human nature for privacy and safety, which the separation of such facilities is designed to protect. More particularly, it also misconstrues the clear language of Title IX and its regulations.”
The Gloucester School Board plans to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s decision in August – but the justices will not be able to revisit the case until October. In the meantime, Gavin’s lawyers argue that allowing the student to use the men’s restroom will cause no permanent damage.