Metro Weekly

Department of Justice backs Virginia transgender student’s fight

A statement of interest from government says discriminatory bathroom policy violates Title IX

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building. (Photo credit: Ed Brown, via Wikimedia Commons.)

The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building. (Photo credit: Ed Brown, via Wikimedia Commons.)

The Department of Justice has filed a statement of interest in federal court that appears to bolster a Virginia transgender high school student’s fight to use the bathroom that comports with his gender identity. 

The statement of interest, which is similar to an amicus brief but can also have a broader impact on policy and the interpretation of laws, was issued in response to a lawsuit lodged by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Virginia on behalf of Gavin Grimm, a transgender male student at Gloucester High School. Grimm sued after the school board voted to prevent him from using the boys’ restroom after school administrators had previously allowed him to use the bathroom consistent with his gender identity for nearly two months, without incident. The ACLU and ACLU of Virginia have argued that Gloucester County’s bathroom policy is both unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment and violates Title IX.

“Under Title IX, discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex. As such, prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX,” the Justice Department’s statement reads. “There is a public interest in ensuring that all students, including transgender students, have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination.”

Meanwhile, lawyers for Grimm were elated that the federal government has essentially endorsed their arguments in the case. 

“The Department of Justice filing makes crystal clear that the Gloucester County School Board’s transgender restroom policy violates Title IX,” said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Project. “All students — including transgender students — should be able to use the restroom without being stigmatized and humiliated for being who they are.”

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

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