Richmond, Va. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today ruled in favor of transgender male student Gavin Grimm in his challenge to Gloucester High School's discriminatory restroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers by requiring them to use "alternative, private" facilities.
The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit marks the first time that a federal appeals court has determined that Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use sex segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity, and therefore could have major implications for North Carolina's House Bill 2, which forces transgender individuals to use the wrong restroom in schools and other government buildings. North Carolina is in the Fourth Circuit.
In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, and Lambda Legal released the following statement:
"Today's ruling makes plain that North Carolina's House Bill 2 violates Title IX by discriminating against transgender students and forcing them to use the wrong restroom at school. This mean-spirited law not only encourages discrimination and endangers transgender students it puts at risk billions of dollars in federal funds that North Carolina receives for secondary and post-secondary schools. House Bill 2 exposes North Carolinians to discrimination and harm, is wreaking havoc on the state's economy and reputation, and now more than ever, places the state's federal education funding in jeopardy. We again call on Governor McCrory and the General Assembly to repeal House Bill 2 and replace it with full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people."
Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina recently filed a lawsuit challenging House Bill 2. The lawsuit argues that through HB 2, North Carolina sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state. The complaint argues that HB 2 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and invading the privacy of transgender people. The law also violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex.
The Obama administration is presently considering whether North Carolina's House Bill 2 makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways, and housing. North Carolina receives more than $4.5 billion in federal funding for secondary and post-secondary schools, all of which remains at jeopardy given the state's policy of systemically violating Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.
Today's decision reinstates Gavin's claim that the discriminatory restroom policy violates Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law prohibiting discrimination in schools based on sex.
GLAD and NCLR Applaud Decision Which Affirms U.S. Department of Education Rule Mandating Equal Treatment of Transgender Students
(San Francisco, CA, April 19, 2016)GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) today applaud a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit which confirms policy set by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, that ensures Gavin Grimm, a 15-year-old transgender student in Virginia, will be fully respected as a boy at his school including in being able to access the boys' room.
Gavin's use of the boys' room prompted the Gloucester County School Board to enact a policy excluding transgender students from using the same restrooms as their peers, even though no other students complained when Gavin used the boys' room. The ACLU filed suit against the school board on behalf of Gavin, arguing that the school's actions violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and constitutional guarantees of equal protection. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding.
The decision issued today reversed the district court's dismissal of Gavin's Title IX claim and instructed the lower court to defer to policy set by the Department of Education which requires schools to provide transgender students access to restroom facilities based on the student's gender identity.
An amicus brief authored by GLAD, NCLR, and Goodwin Procter LLP on behalf of medical and mental health associations argued that being able to use the same bathroom as other students at school is critical for the healthy development of transgender adolescents.
"This is a great decision affirming important policy set by the U.S. Department of Education that transgender students be fully integrated into the school community consistent with the student's lived experience," said Jennifer Levi, Transgender Rights Project Director for GLAD.
"This case sets an important precedent for all schools," said Asaf Orr, the Transgender Youth Project Attorney for NCLR. "It is their obligation to promote welcoming environments for transgender students, rather than stigmatize, isolate, and ultimately harm transgender students."
GLAD's and NCLR's brief cites peer-reviewed research to show that 1) schools play a crucial role in child development; 2) peer group belonging is critical for adolescents; 3) identity development is the task of every adolescent; 4) identity development for transgender adolescents involves consolidating their gender identity; 5) external factors such as stigma, social segregation, and discrimination can harm the development of identity in transgender youth; 6) external factors such as social integration, school support, and the leadership of adults can support the healthy development of transgender adolescents.
The following is National Center for Transgender Equality's statement, attributable to Executive Director Mara Keisling:
"We welcome this sensible and very important decision that promotes fairness and dignity for all students, by holding that a trans student who was denied access to a restroom has a valid Title IX claim. In light of this important ruling, we urge the U.S. Department of Education to swiftly issue guidance to all schools regarding their obligations under Title IX. We also press North Carolina legislators to heed this ruling by repealing HB 2, the state law that flies in the face of Title IX. North Carolina is part of the Fourth Circuit, which issued today's ruling, and must follow the court's decision. While many people are still learning who transgender students are and how to treat transgender students fairly, the court has rightly recognized that treating all students with dignity, including regarding restroom access, is the right thing to doit costs nothing and harms no one. On the other hand, as recent weeks have shown, discrimination is harmful, costly, and illegal."