Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit issued a ruling in favor of a friend, Gavin Grimm (pictured above), who is a transgender student in the Gloucester County, Virginia public schools. In issuing the ruling, the 4th Circuit reversed a ruling in favor of the Gloucester County Schools and held that the U.S. Department of Education's position is correct that Title IX of the Education Act protects transgender students from discrimination. Not only is the ruling a big win for Gavin Grimm, but it ought to be sending seismic tremors across North Carolina where the GOP controlled state legislature enacted HB2 which flies in the face of Title IX and the 4th Circuit's ruling. Pat McCrory's sphincter ought to be tensing up big time about now (McCrory had filed an amicus brief on behalf of North Carolina against Gavin Grimm). Just this past Sunday McCrory had scoffed at the suggestion that his state might be in violation of federal civil rights laws and in danger of losing federal education funding because of HB2. BuzzFeed has details on the ruling. Here are highlights:
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Department of Education’s interpretation of existing federal civil rights laws to protect transgender people against discrimination in education.The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld the department’s interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to include protections in the law’s ban on sex discrimination that allow transgender people to use a restroom in accordance with their gender identity.
The Gloucester County School Board, however, passed a policy that restricts students to restrooms reflecting their “biological gender.” The transgender student who was targeted by the policy, Gavin Grimm, brought this lawsuit in federal court, seeking an injunction against enforcement of the board’s policy.
Among the states included in the 4th Circuit is North Carolina, which recently passed a law limiting restroom use in government facilities — including universities — to that which corresponds with a person’s “biological sex.” The ACLU, which is backing Grimm’s suit, also has brought suit against the North Carolina law.
The appeals court first held that the language of regulations implementing Title IX were ambiguous as to transgender restroom use and then finding that the department’s interpretation of those regulations — allowing transgender students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity — was a legitimate interpretation.
“We conclude that the Department’s interpretation of its own regulation … as it relates to restroom access by transgender individuals, is entitled to … deference and is to be accorded controlling weight in this case,” Judge Henry Floyd wrote for the court.
The Virginian Pilot notes in part as follows:
The decision is a big victory for the Obama administration, which weighed in at the appeals court to support Grimm’s challenge.
In a case closely watched by public schools and transgender-rights activists across the country, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Gloucester County School Board's policy.
The appeals court's ruling establishes legal precedent in every state in the 4th Circuit, including North Carolina, which faces a lawsuit challenging a new state law requiring transgender people to use the public bathroom that corresponds to the sex listed on their birth certificate. The sweeping law, which also barred cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances like one recently passed in Charlotte, has prompted a national backlash. Businesses and politicians have announced boycotts of North Carolina, and legal challenges ensure that the wedge issue will dominate Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's re-election campaign.