The United States Supreme Court has decided to take up transgender rights for the first time after a Virginia school board prevented their student – a transgender teenager – from using the boys’ bathroom. Reports confirm the Supreme Court will listen to an appeal from Gloucester County school board in April and a final ruling is expected in June, 2017.
Image: Gavin Grimm
Gavin Grimm, the 17-year-old high school senior in Gloucester County, was identified as a boy. He wishes to use the boys’ bathroom just like other males but the management says it’s a violation.
However, his school claims they prevented him from using the boys’ washroom following complaints from other students’ parents.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) appealed to a lower court on behalf of Grimm.
While the initial ruling was protested at the Supreme Court, Grimm is currently using a separate toilet and will stay away from the boys’ washrom until a final ruling is issued in 2017.
Steven Shapiro, ACLU’s Legal Director said: “We want to get it resolved for his benefit as fast as we can.”
Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement: “The court could use the case to resolve similar disputes across the country.
“Obviously, for transgender people, the stakes of this case are incredibly high. Whatever the court rules in Grimm may ensure that transgender people are accepted and included as equal members of our society, or it may relegate them to outsiders for decades to come,” Minter said.
Grimm expressed concerns for the level of discrimination he’s facing in a country where gender equality seem to have solid roots. He said, “I never thought that my restroom use would ever turn into any kind of national debate. The only thing I ever asked for was the right to be treated like everyone else.”
“I continue to suffer daily because of the school board’s decision to make my bathroom use a matter of public debate,” Grimm said in a column published in Friday’s editions of the Washington Post.
“I feel the humiliation every time I need to use the restroom and every minute I try to ‘hold it’ in the hopes of avoiding the long walk to the nurse’s office,” he added.
Image: Gavin Grimm
Troy Anderson, the school board’s Chairman, said the court hearing is a welcome development which will solve gender rights once and for all. “The board’s policy carefully balances the interests of all students and parents,” he said in a public statement.
“The court’s decision to take the case means Grimm will not be able to use the boys’ bathroom before graduating from high school next year,” said Josh Block, who’s Grimm’s lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union.
“These sorts of discriminatory policies stigmatize and isolate transgender students like Gavin just because of who they are,” Block added.
Meanwhile, some conservative groups have shown support for the decision from Gloucester County’s school board. The groups argue that this war on gender equality is about student privacy rights and not discrimination, in any form, against the LGBT community.
“In light of the right to bodily privacy, federal law should not be twisted to require that a male be given access to the girls’ facilities, or a female to the boys’ facilities,” said Gary McCaleb, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group.
The issue of whether transgender people should be allowed to use public bathrooms that correspond with their gender has proven a hard nut to crack in the U.S.
In 2015, the battle over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights was granted positive consideration after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.
However, the nationwide ruling was met with protests and wide criticisms. According to a report from Reuters, the transgender fight heated up after North Carolina passed a Republican-backed law in March that required people to use bathrooms that corresponded to their gender at birth in government buildings and public schools.
The North Carolina law, being challenged in court, also blocked local measures protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.
Barack Obama’s administration stepped up in May and issued nationwide guidance to public schools, advising that transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice.
That guidance infuriated many conservatives and prompted a Republican-led legal effort to fight it. Twenty-three states sued to block the guidance.
A U.S. district court judge on Aug. 22 issued a nationwide injunction sought by Texas and other states preventing the administration from enforcing the guidance.