In a move likely to be repeated for other lawsuits involving transgender issues, a federal judge in Minnesota has suspended a lawsuit from a parents group challenging the Virginia Public Schools’ policy allowing transgender students to use the locker room that corresponds with their gender identity.
U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright granted the suspension in December at the request of lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendants as a similar case — that of Gloucester County (Va.) teenager Gavin Grimm — is heard by the Supreme Court. Grimm’s lawyers have long argued that transgender students are entitled to protections against sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with that assessment in an April decision, which the Supreme Court is now reviewing.
In the meantime, cases like the one out of Virginia, Minn., are likely to be put on hold while the Grimm case is litigated and the high court comes to a decision, which will likely not be announced until June 2017.
Though it agreed to the suspension of the case, Virginia Public Schools has not admitted to any wrongdoing, arguing that it is simply complying with federal guidance from the Obama administration ensuring that transgender students are able to access restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identity.
“The district remains committed to its position that its practices adhere to legal requirements and that the facts alleged in the lawsuit are sensationalized and inaccurate,” the district said in a statement to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “If the plaintiffs decide to continue the lawsuit after the Supreme Court decision, the district will continue to vigorously defend its position.”
The lawsuit was brought by a group of parents who objected to allowing a transgender female student-athlete to use the girls’ locker room along with cisgender females who play on the girls’ volleyball, basketball, and track teams. Enlisting the help of the anti-LGBT legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, the parents have sued not only the school district, but the U.S. Department of Education for its pro-transgender stance. The parents have alleged that the student in question, known as Jane Doe, danced to loud music with “sexually explicit lyrics” while “grinding,” “twerking,” and “dancing like he (sic) was on a stripper pole.” They also claim that Jane Doe made sexually suggestive or inappropriate comments while using the girls’ locker room, thereby traumatizing several of the cisgender female students.
But lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, who are representing Doe, say that the parents’ group, known as Privacy Matters, has misrepresented and distorted Doe’s behavior to make it seem as if she is behaving inappropriately. The ACLU also argues that anyone uncomfortable with Doe’s presence in the locker room can ask for additional privacy measures or to use an alternate facility, so long as they don’t attempt to segregate Doe from her peers. They are hoping that a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court in the Grimm case will solidify Doe’s right to access the girls’ locker room along with her fellow teammates.