Advocates for transgender equality have filed several amicus briefs asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to decide in favor of Virginia teenager Gavin Grimm in his lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board.
Grimm’s legal team has argued that he has a right to sue the school board for violating his Title IX rights when it passed a policy preventing him from using the boys’ restroom.
The 4th Circuit previously decided that Grimm had the right to sue under the statute, relying on a narrow interpretation adopted by the Obama Department of Education that was spelled out in guidance to schools recommending that transgender students be treated according to their gender identity. But after the Trump administration rescinded that guidance, the Supreme Court ordered the 4th Circuit to reconsider the lawsuit, forcing Grimm’s lawyers to argue that Title IX’s protections against sex discrimination inherently prohibit discrimination against transgender students based on their gender identity.
Supporters of Grimm have argued similarly in their amicus briefs, including attorney generals from 17 states and the District of Columbia, the American Bar Association, civil rights organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, teacher unions, and major medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association. The Human Rights Campaign also filed its own brief supporting Grimm, with 59 major companies signing on, including Airbnb, Inc., Amazon.com, Apple, Indiegogo, Inc., Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, PayPay, Spotify, The Gap, Tumblr, and Yelp.
“The outpouring of support for Gavin from virtually every community across the country today is simply breathtaking,” Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project and lead counsel in Grimm’s case, said in a statement. “Gavin’s fight has inspired and empowered so many people to stand up for the transgender community. We have seen teachers, business leaders, political leaders, medical professionals, mothers and fathers, students, and many others stand up and speak out on behalf of trans students. The briefs filed this week are a reminder that the School Board’s arguments have no basis in reality.”
Liberty Counsel, the right-wing legal organization that supported Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis in her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, filed its own brief arguing that the 4th Circuit should reject Grimm’s arguments and dismiss his Title IX claim. (Grimm has also alleged that the restroom policy violates his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That claim is still being reviewed by a lower court.)
In its brief, Liberty Counsel employs several anti-transgender arguments that have been debunked, including the oft-utilized trope that allowing transgender people to use facilities matching their gender identity will put children at risk of sexual assault.
“Replacing the binary definition of sex with ‘gender identity’ would sanction a scientifically unproven sociopolitical ideology rooted in serial sexual abuse of infants and children, and advance an experimental ideology that replaces biological and social reality with an artificial social construct that harms children,” the brief reads. “Expanding Title IX to include ‘gender identity’ would place children at risk by providing sexual predators with greater access to children if they simply masquerade as the opposite sex.”
Liberty Counsel urges the 4th Circuit to reject the interpretation that Title IX’s prohibitions on sex-based discrimination also apply to discrimination against transgender individuals.
“Interpreting Title IX to include ‘gender identity,’ and particularly, to compel districts to permit access to sex-separate facilities based solely on ‘perceived’ gender conflicts the statute’s purpose to ‘provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students,'” Liberty Counsel writes. “Moreover, advocacy for recognition of ‘transgender’ children fosters experimental, life-changing medical protocols that do not comply with the dictates of medical ethics. Most importantly, such advocacy sanctions an agenda-driven ideology that threatens the physical, mental and emotional well-being of children.”