Gavin Grimm was thrust into the national spotlight as an outspoken voice in the fight for trans rights when his local school board passed a discriminatory transphobic bathroom policy aimed specifically at Grimm. The Gloucester County School Board in Virginia passed the policy, which forced trans students to use the bathroom associated with their sex assigned at birth, in 2014.
At the age of 15, Grimm became the named plaintiff in Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board. His case gained national attention and won at the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, then was picked up by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, things that weren’t looking good after Trump rescinded the Obama-era guidance on protecting trans people under Title IX and the Supreme Court used this as justification to send the decision back to the 4th circuit, who sent it back to the district court, prompting the school board to argue for the case to be dismissed.
Grimm, who is now 18 and on his way to college, finally got good news yesterday when the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia denied the school board’s motion to dismiss the case, affirming that Title IX and the Constitution protect transgender students from being excluded from restrooms that align with their gender identity.
By ruling in favor of Grimm, Judge Arenda Wright Allen set the lawsuit back into motion. Judge Wright Allen even went so far as to say that Grimm’s case had merit, writing that Grimm “has sufficiently pled a Title IX claim of sex discrimination under a gender stereotyping theory” and that the school board’s argument was “resoundingly unpersuasive.”
(You may remember Judge Wright Allen, who is also the first black woman appointed as a federal District Court judge in Virginia, as the badass who overturned Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban in 2014.)
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Grimm said, “It’s something we’ve all known for a very long time, that this is illegal and unacceptable, but to finally have the court make that in plain language is really fantastic.”
Grimm’s act of resistance could have huge implications for trans rights across the nation. At the heart of his case is the argument that trans discrimination is already illegal under existing sex discrimination laws including the federal Title IX and existing civil rights law. If it’s appealed to the Supreme Court again and results in a favorable ruling, it could set the standard for protecting trans rights across America. It could effectively invalidate any state’s transphobic “bathroom bill” and potentially protect transgender people in the U.S. in the workplace, housing, public schools, healthcare, and in other places where sex discrimination is already against the law.
His case is flanked by several other federal court decisions that have upheld that sex discrimination laws protect transgender people. Paired with the support of Judge Wright Allen, it’s probable that Grimm’s case may change the course of history for trans rights. The school board will most likely appeal again, but Grimm is ready to keep fighting.
In a press statement from the ACLU of Virginia, who represented Grimm, Grimm said, “I feel an incredible sense of relief. After fighting this policy since I was 15 years old, I finally have a court decision saying that what the Gloucester County School Board did to me was wrong and it was against the law. I was determined not to give up because I didn’t want any other student to have to suffer the same experience that I had to go through.”
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