The Supreme Court sent a landmark case involving a Virginia transgender teen back to a lower court for review this morning, citing President Trump’s recent revision of federal Education Act Title IX guidelines on the issue.
The case, Gloucester School Board v. G.G., in which Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy, petitioned the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court for the right, as former President Obama directed last year, to use school restrooms “consistent with his gender identity”.
The lower court had ruled in favor of Grimm, saying that his rights were protected based on Obama’s interpretation of Title IX, correctly requiring schools to treat students’ expressions of gender identity as their actual sex, including use of “appropriate” restroom and locker facilities. Grimm, 17, transitioned from female to male during his sophomore year, including revising his birth certificate to reflect the change. Today’s one-sentence decision invoked Trump’s reversal of Obama, and means the lower court must reconsider the case.
Joshua Block, the lead ACLU attorney representing Grimm, was disappointed but firm in his assessment of the high court’s decision. “Nothing about today’s action changes the meaning of the law. Title IX and the Constitution protect Gavin and other transgender students from discrimination,” he noted.
Block, who works with the organization’s LGBT Legal Project, added, “[W]hile we’re disappointed that the Supreme Court will not be hearing Gavin’s case this term, the overwhelming level of support shown for Gavin and trans students by people across the country throughout this process shows that the American people have already moved in the right direction and that the rights of trans people cannot be ignored. This is a detour, not the end of the road.”
Other LGBT groups also expressed their displeasure over the setback. “The Supreme Court has missed an opportunity to end the painful discrimination currently faced by tens of thousands of transgender students nationwide,” said Dr. Eliza Byard, of the Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network (GLSEN). The Trump administration, meanwhile, has not issued its own interpretation of Title IX, which applies to all public schools receiving federal funds, but the White House has referred to the issue as one of “states’ rights”.
The lower court must now determine whether, absent White House clarification, the provisions of Title IX extend to gender identity. A full Supreme Court, including Neil Gorsuch or another conservative Trump appointee, could get the case again, depending on how the Fourth Circuit handles the retrial of the motion.
White House officials declined comment on the Supreme Court ruling.