Metro Weekly

4th Circuit to hear Gavin Grimm’s case in September

Grimm's lawyers hope 4th Circuit will embrace a broader interpretation of Title IX protections

Gavin Grimm, Photo: Todd Franson

Transgender teenager Gavin Grimm will get his day in court come September.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has announced it will hear oral arguments in Grimm’s lawsuit on Sept. 12. Grimm sued the Gloucester County School Board for its policy banning transgender students from using restrooms that match their gender identity, instead of their assigned sex at birth.

Because Grimm graduated from Gloucester High School last month, the court will consider whether to dismiss Grimm’s lawsuit on the basis that, as a former student, he no longer is experiencing any “injury.” The court will also hear arguments revolving around whether Grimm should have a right to sue for sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

Grimm has previously said publicly — and his lawyers have argued in court briefs — that the case remains relevant, as other transgender children will be subjected to the discriminatory policy adopted by the Gloucester County School Board if it is left in place. 

Grimm’s lawyers also contend that the policy violates not only his Fourteenth Amendment rights — a claim that a lower federal court has not yet ruled upon — but his rights under Title IX. They argue that barring a person from a publicly-shared space because of their gender identity constitutes sex discrimination under the statute because the person is being discriminated against based upon their failure to adhere to sex stereotypes and gender norms.

Last year, the 4th Circuit ruled, on extremely narrow grounds, that Grimm had the right to sue under Title IX, based on the Department of Education’s interpretation that the law’s nondiscrimination protections should extend to students discriminated against based on their gender identity. That was bolstered by subsequent guidance from the Obama administration.

Following that ruling, Grimm’s case had previously been scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court, but earlier this year, the Trump-run Department of Justice and Department of Education rescinded the Obama administration’s guidance. As a result, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the 4th Circuit for further consideration. Grimm’s lawyers hope that the 4th Circuit will embrace a broader interpretation of Title IX, as the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently did in a similar case out of Wisconsin.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com