Society

SCOTUS Sends Transgender Case Back to Lower Court

| by Robert Fowler

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear the case of Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., sending the case between a transgender student and his county school board back for lower courts to decide. The case had been highly anticipated as an opportunity for the Supreme Court to clarify transgender rights.

On March 6, the Supreme Court announced it would not hear the court case been Gavin Grimm, a Virginia-based transgender boy, and his local county school board. Grimm had sued the Gloucester school board for denying him access to the boys' public restroom and making him use a private bathroom allocated for "students with gender identity issues."

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit had ruled the school district had violated Grimm's rights, a decision the school board then appealed, The New York Times reports.

The case was slated to be decided by the Supreme Court, but has now been sent back to a lower court to decide. In its ruling, the Fourth Circuit had deferred to the Obama administration's guidance that public school must accommodate their transgender students under Title IX, a regulation that prohibits federally funded schools from discriminating based on sex.

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On Feb. 22, the Trump administration's Department of Justice and Department of Education jointly rescinded the Obama administration's guidance on schools allowing transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, according to The Washington Post.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions asserted that the Obama administration guidance had been a federal overreach because "Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue."

A ruling by the Supreme Court on Grimm's case would have potentially clarified whether transgender students' rights are protected under Title IX.

Attorney Joshua Block of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Grimm, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the Supreme Court decision but asserting it would press onward in the lower courts.

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"This is a detour, not the end of the road, and we'll continue to fight for Gavin and other transgender people to ensure that they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve," Block said, according to CNN.

Legal counsel Kerri Kupec of the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom issued a statement deeming the Supreme Court decision as affirmation.

"It only makes sense for the Supreme Court to vacate the 4rth Circuit's earlier decision and instruct it to reconsider this case," Kupec said in a statement. "The 4th Circuit should affirm the plain meeting of Title IX ... School officials should be free to protect their students' privacy, safety and dignity without federal government interference."

Executive Director Eliza Byard of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network described the Supreme Court decision as a missed opportunity "to end the painful discrimination currently faced by tens of thousands of transgender students nationwide."

Sources: CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post / Photo credit: Tim Sackton/Flickr

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