Virginia transgender student wins: What it means

Virginia transgender student wins: What it means


Attorneys for ACLU, Lambda Legal explain and respond to federal appeals court ruling

Yesterday marked another important day in the fast-developing national effort to secure equal rights for LGBT Americans. Here in North Carolina, the list of high profile critics and opponents of House Bill 2, the state’s controversial new law that governs restroom access, restricts employment discrimination lawsuits and bars local governments from adopting living wage ordinances, continued to mushroom.

In the morning, it was announced that Susana Martinez, the conservative Republican governor of New Mexico, had suddenly developed an undisclosed “scheduling conflict” for her long-planned appearance at next week’s North Carolina Republican convention in Greensboro. While there was no explicit confirmation that Martinez’ decision was in response to HB2, her hometown newspaper, The New Mexican, was happy connect the dots.

Later in the day, the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce called for repeal of the law, which it characterized as “a threat to our mission as an organization devoted to growing our region’s economy.” Minutes after the Raleigh Chamber’s announcement, David Gergen, a former senior advisor to President Ronald Reagan and longtime national Republican insider tweeted support for the decision of Duke University president to condemn HB2 by saying:

3 cheers to @DukeU Richard Brodhead calling for repeal of NC law HB2. Others, notably @elonuniversity, pushing too”

Federal appeals court ruling

If there was a most important blow struck against HB2 yesterday, however, it was clearly the ruling issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia in the case of Gavin Grimm – a transgender boy who sued to gain access to the high school restroom that matches his gender identity. As N.C. Policy Watch reporter Billy Ball detailed in an interview with Gavin’s lawyer last week, this ruling could deal a powerful blow to HB2.

Yesterday, in the aftermath of the appeals court ruling, ACLU lawyers in Virginia (who represented Grimm) and North Carolina (who are challenging HB 2 in federal court) responded.

Here is the Virginia ACLU statement:

A federal court of appeals today ruled in favor of transgender male student Gavin Grimm in his challenge to Gloucester High School’s discriminatory restroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers by requiring them to use ‘alternative, private’ facilities.

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit marks the first time that a federal appeals court has determined that Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use sex segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity. The Fourth Circuit remanded the case for the district court to reevaluate Gavin’s request for a preliminary injunction under the proper legal standard.

I feel so relieved and vindicated by the court’s ruling.’ said Grimm. ‘Today’s decision gives me hope that my fight will help other kids avoid discriminatory treatment at school.’

Today’s Fourth Circuit decision is a vindication for Gavin and a reinforcement of the Department of Education’s policy.’ said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project. ‘With this decision, we hope that schools and legislators will finally get the message that excluding transgender kids from the restrooms is unlawful sex discrimination.’

Gavin’s fight has been a beacon of hope in the face of increasingly hostile rhetoric against transgender people in Virginia, and across the nation,’ said Gail Deady, the Secular Society Women’s Rights Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia. ‘The court’s ruling sends a strong message to schools and lawmakers that discriminatory restroom policies don’t just harm transgender students, they put Title IX funding at risk.’

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia brought the case in June 2015 seeking a preliminary injunction so that Gavin may use the boys’ restroom when school resumed for his junior year. In September, U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar ruled against Gavin by dismissing his Title IX claim but allowed his case, under the Equal Protection claim, to proceed.

The ruling can be found at:

And here is the statement issued by the ACLU of North Carolina and their co-counsel organization, Lambda Legal:

Today’s ruling makes plain that North Carolina’s House Bill 2 violates Title IX by discriminating against transgender students and forcing them to use the wrong restroom at school. This mean-spirited law not only encourages discrimination and endangers transgender students – it puts at risk billions of dollars in federal funds that North Carolina receives for secondary and post-secondary schools. House Bill 2 exposes North Carolinians to discrimination and harm, is wreaking havoc on the state’s economy and reputation, and now more than ever, places the state’s federal education funding in jeopardy. We again call on Governor McCrory and the General Assembly to repeal House Bill 2 and replace it with full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.

Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina recently filed a lawsuit challenging House Bill 2. The lawsuit argues that through HB 2, North Carolina sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state. The complaint argues that HB 2 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and invading the privacy of transgender people. The law also violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex.

The Obama administration is presently considering whether North Carolina’s House Bill 2 makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways, and housing. North Carolina receives more than $4.5 billion in federal funding for secondary and post-secondary schools, all of which remains at jeopardy given the state’s policy of systemically violating Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.

Today’s decision reinstates Gavin’s claim that the discriminatory restroom policy violates Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law prohibiting discrimination in schools based on sex.”

Rick Glazier, a veteran attorney, former chairman of the state House Education Committee and current Executive Director of the North Carolina Justice Center (the parent organization of N.C. Policy Watch), also issued a statement lauding the court ruling and once again calling on state leaders to repeal HB2. As Glazier noted:

Supporters of House Bill 2 have loudly argued the bill’s opponents were exaggerating the potential impact on public education. But the ruling in favor of student Gavin Grimm against his high school’s discriminatory restroom policy expressly shows HB2 violates Title IX, in turn jeopardizing federal education funding.”

McCrory, Berger respond

In the aftermath of yesterday’s ruling, Governor Pat McCrory offered a brief statement to reporters at which he criticized the decision but promised to consult with his attorneys and comply with any court directives. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, however, adopted an angry and defiant stance, stating that “two unelected federal judges and the liberal media are on the verge of completing their radical social reengineering of our society by forcing middle school-aged girls to share school locker rooms with boys.”

Stay tuned to NC Policy Watch and The Progressive Pulse blog throughout the day for further updates on this fast-moving matter.