Metro Weekly

Equality Virginia to honor Gavin Grimm at Commonwealth Dinner on April 1

Trans teen advocate named an OUTstanding Virginian for helping to advance LGBTQ equality

Gavin Grimm, Photo: Todd Franson

LGBTQ rights organization Equality Virginia will honor transgender rights advocate Gavin Grimm at its 14th annual Commonwealth Dinner on Saturday, April 1. Grimm is one of seven who will be named OUTstanding Virginians, a designation for LGBTQ people who have served as role models within the community and have made significant strides towards achieving full equality in the commonwealth.

Grimm, made history last year when he challenged the Gloucester County School Board’s policy barring transgender students from using the restrooms that match their gender identity. After obtaining an unfavorable ruling from a lower court, Grimm appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 4th Circuit then ruled that Grimm’s rights under Title IX had been violated by the school board’s restroom policy. That decision was subsequently appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which had been scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on March 28.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s decision to rescind Obama-era guidance on transgender students meant that the narrow rationale used by the 4th Circuit — it had deferred to the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of “sex” as extending beyond biological sex at birth to those who do not conform to gender stereotypes — was no longer valid and needed to be reconsidered.

As a result, the case has been sent back to the 4th Circuit. Grimm’s lawyers hope to convince the circuit court to issue a more sweeping ruling that outlines why Grimm should be allowed to sue under Title IX — namely, that discrimination based on gender identity is inherently the same as discrimination based on sex. 

Other OUTstanding Virginians to be honored include Dr. Lisa Griffin, a transgender advocate who has worked on issues relating to mental health and expanding health care services for transgender people at local Virginia hospitals; LGBTQ advocate Michael Hamar, a blogger who covers political and LGBTQ issues and who created an endowment to help LGBTQ attend college; and De Sube, a transgender advocate from the Hampton Roads area. Also being honored are Robert Rigby, an LGBTQ rights advocate, high school teacher and president of FCPS Pride, U.S. Rep. E. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), a longtime LGBTQ ally who previously served in the state legislature; and Victoria Kidd, one of the lead plaintiffs in Virginia’s lawsuit that overturned the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) will attend the dinner as a special guest, and is expected to be honored for his advocacy on behalf of Virginia’s LGBTQ community. McAuliffe recently vetoed a “religious freedom” bill that could have allowed discrimination against same-sex couples and LGBTQ individuals, keeping a promise he made earlier this session. In 2013, McAuliffe became the first gubernatorial candidate in a Southern state to publicly back marriage equality. Following his election, he issued his first executive order, which banned discrimination against LGBTQ state employees.

The dinner will also feature a silent auction and a performance by singer, actress and cabaret artist Georgia Rogers Farmer, who will cover songs ranging from Broadway hits to pop music.

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

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