Saturday, October 31, 2015

Obama Administration Backs Transgender Gloucester County Teen

I have posted before about the ongoing legal battle being waged by Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student against the backward and bigoted Gloucester County, Virginia school division.  By way of full disclosure, I know Grimm and he and his mother have been to our home and, in my view, this kid is amazing and justice is on his side. I would further note that while I frequently complain about Norfolk and Hampton, they are centers of the liberal universe compared to Gloucester County which wants time to be permanently trapped in the 1950's.  As Huffington Post reports, the Obama administration through the Justice Department and U.S. Department of Education have joined the lawsuit on the side of Grimm.  Gloucester County is playing with fire since it ultimately could lose its federal funding for failure to comply with the Civil Rights Act, something I would personally love to see happen so as to send a strong message to other backward, homophobic school districts.  The irony is that, the school district had initially treated Grimm properly until some "concerned citizen" - I suspect some anti-gay pastor - started making complaints. Sadly, the school board gave deference to religious based bigotry rather than Grimm's civil rights. Here are story highlights:

Schools can't prevent transgender students from using the restrooms that correspond with their gender identities without violating federal law, the Obama administration says.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice made that argument in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted late Wednesday in support of a Virginia teenager who is suing for access to the boys' restrooms at his high school.

The government's filing says a Gloucester County School Board policy that requires 16-year-old junior Gavin Grimm to use either the girls' restrooms or a unisex bathroom constitutes unlawful bias under Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

The policy denies Grimm "a benefit that every other student at this school enjoys: access to restrooms that are consistent with his or her gender identity," lawyers for the two departments wrote. "Treating a student differently from other students because his birth-assigned sex diverges from his gender identity constitutes differential treatment on the basis of sex under Title IX."

The administration's position in Grimm's case represents its clearest statement to date on a modern civil rights issue that has roiled some communities as more children identify as transgender at younger ages.

The brief "sends a crucial message to schools across the country — transgender youth are valuable members of our community who are entitled to full protection of the law," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said. "No one should be humiliated or marginalized by the adults responsible for helping them to achieve."

Gloucester County Attorney Ted Wilmot was not available for comment on Thursday, his office said. After the Justice Department indicated in July that it wanted to weigh in on Grimm's lawsuit, Wilmot told the Daily Press newspaper in Newport News, Virginia that existing court precedents do not support the idea that the school board's restroom rules violate Title IX.

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights already has reached agreements with two southern California school districts, one in 2013 and one last year, to settle complaints of harassment and unequal treatment brought by transgender students.

In a pair of memos issued last year, one on the responsibility of schools to respond to reports of sexual violence and the other on access to single-sex classes, the office also articulated its view that Title IX entitles transgender students to be treated in accordance with their expressed gender.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued to overturn the policy on his behalf in June. A federal judge sided with the school board last month, dismissing the sex discrimination claim the ACLU had advanced and that the Obama administration had embraced.

The case is now pending before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Religious belief has no place in the civil laws and elected officials and judges who cannot put aside their own beliefs need to resign from office.  It is really that simple.  No more undeserved deference to religion and religious belief. 

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