Supreme Court declines to hear Virginia school board’s transgender bathroom case


WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday declined to wade into a dispute over whether schools may bar transgender students from using a bathroom that reflects their gender identity, permitting a lower court ruling against those prohibitions to stand.

At issue in the case was whether federal anti-discrimination law applied to LGBTQ students. Gloucester County School Board in Virginia argued its policy of requiring transgender students to use unisex bathrooms was permitted under a 50-year-old law that prohibits discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.

By not taking the case, the Supreme Court without comment let stand a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that found the school’s policy discriminated against Gavin Grimm, a transgender man who was denied access to the boys’ bathroom years ago when he was a student.

“I am glad that my years-long fight to have my school see me for who I am is over,” Grimm said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented him in the case. “Trans youth deserve to use the bathroom in peace without being humiliated and stigmatized by their own school boards and elected officials.”

Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said they would have taken the case. Experts have said that more cases involving transgender rights are likely to arrive at the high court in the future as conservative states pass a bevy of laws restricting transgender rights.

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The case arrived at the court at a time when the Biden administration is seeking to expand legal protections for transgender students, even as several conservative states have moved to limit those protections. The tension between the policies means that future federal litigation over the issue is likely.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case once before, in 2016, based on guidance from the Obama administration that nudged schools to adopt policies favoring transgender students. But the court dropped the case months later, wiping out a lower court ruling for Grimm, when the Trump administration withdrew the guidance. President Joe Biden’s administration reinstated the Obama-era guidance earlier this month.

A federal court upheld Gavin Grimm's choice of bathroom facilities.

A federal court upheld Gavin Grimm’s choice of bathroom facilities.

A 6-3 court held last year that prohibitions on workplace discrimination on the basis of “sex” also extended protections to LGBTQ Americans. The legal fight between LGBTQ advocates and their opponents has since shifted to whether other laws that bar “sex” discrimination similarly protect people in other settings based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

At least nine conservative states, meanwhile, have passed laws limiting LGBTQ rights. Those include a Tennessee law requiring transgender students to compete in school sports according to their sex assigned at birth. Arkansas this year became the first state to ban gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court won’t decide trans bathroom case involving Gavin Grimm

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