Metro Weekly

Trans student Gavin Grimm’s discrimination lawsuit gains support of 23 attorneys general

AGs say barring transgender people from spaces matching their gender identity serves "no legitimate interests"

Gavin Grimm - Photo: Todd Franson
Gavin Grimm – Photo: Todd Franson

A coalition of 23 attorneys generals is lending their support to Gavin Grimm, the transgender former Gloucester High School student who sued his local school district after it barred him from the boys’ restroom and refused to change his transcripts to reflect his correct gender identity. 

Grimm initially sued the Gloucester County School Board in 2015, alleging that the county’s policy requiring him to use single-stall restrooms instead of facilities matching his gender identity was a form of discrimination, violating his rights under both the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

Related: Federal judge rules Gloucester County’s restroom policy violated Gavin Grimm’s civil rights

After an initial unfavorable decision against him, Grimm appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found — basing its opinion narrowly on the Obama-era Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX’s references to discrimination based on “sex” — that Grimm’s constitutional rights had been violated.

The case was slated to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, but after the Trump administration changed the Department of Education’s interpretation of the Title IX statute, the case was remanded back to the lower courts for further review. In the time since then, a federal district judge has ruled in favor of Grimm, this time embracing the view (independent of the Department of Education) that discrimination based on gender identity is inherently a form of sex discrimination.

Following that decision, the Gloucester County School Board appealed the decision to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will revisit the case and consider whether to accept the broader rationale cited by U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen. In the meantime, attorneys representing not only Grimm and the school board, but interested parties from both sides, have filed multiple amicus, or friend-of-the court, briefs outlining their justification for why the 4th Circuit should rule a particular way. 

Among those parties is a coalition of attorneys general from liberal-leaning states and the District of Columbia, who have argued that discrimination against transgender individuals, such as barring them from gender-segregated spaces based solely on their assigned sex at birth, serves “no legitimate [state] interests” and has negative social and health consequences for transgender people.

“Discrimination against transgender people has no legitimate basis, and serves only to injure a group that is feared for being different,” the brief reads.

In addition to the District of Columbia, the states signing onto the brief are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Most of the above jurisdictions have passed broad anti-discrimination laws that provide protections for transgender individuals, leading the coalition to cite the experience that the attorneys general have had in enforcing such laws as a real-life counter-example to the numerous hypothetical evils or disasters that opponents of LGBTQ rights claim will befall the nation if the court rules in Grimm’s favor.

“The amici States’ shared experience demonstrates that ensuring transgender people have access to public facilities consistent with their gender identity — including access to common restrooms — benefits all, without compromising safety or privacy, or imposing significant financial costs,” the brief notes.

“The amici States also share a strong interest in seeing that federal law is properly applied to protect transgender people from discrimination, so that our transgender residents do not experience indignity and discrimination when traveling to other States for work, educational, or recreational purposes.”

Lastly, the coalition argues that Gloucester County’s restroom policy and its refusal to update Grimm’s school records to reflect his legal gender transition (as recognized by the commonwealth of Virginia) violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

“The factual record in this case — which is consistent with the experience of the amici States — demonstrates that the Board’s actions do not advance any legitimate governmental interest in protecting personal privacy or ensuring records’ accuracy, but rather are premised on speculative and unfounded concerns that do not justify treating Grimm and others like him differently,” the attorneys general write.

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