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Gavin Grimm’s Lawsuit Enters a New Phase

Gavin Grimm at New York Pride March
Gavin Grimm at New York Pride March
Joshua Block,
Senior Staff Attorney,
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August 11, 2017

Today we filed an amended complaint in Gavin Grimm’s lawsuit to reverse his school district’s discriminatory policy, which prohibited him and other transgender students from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Gavin graduated from high school in June. Rather than continuing to wait for a ruling on his request for a preliminary injunction (which was filed more than two years ago), we’re moving forward with his claim for damages and his demand to end the anti-trans policy permanently.

Gavin was banned from using the boys’ restroom in December 2014, when he was a 15-year-old sophomore at Gloucester High School in Virginia. For the rest of his time at school, he was segregated from his peers and forced to use single-stall facilities that no other student was required to use.

Gavin continues on the legal path in seeking justice for transgender students.

In April 2016, Gavin won a landmark victory in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed him to use the boys’ restroom. Following that ruling, three other courts granted preliminary injunctions sought by other transgender students against anti-trans restroom policies. All three injunctions went into effect and none have been halted. The plaintiffs in those cases have been able to attend school without being segregated and stigmatized.

But Gavin himself never got the same chance. In August 2016, the Supreme Court blocked the appellate court’s ruling while it decided whether it would take up the case. The Supreme Court did eventually decide to hear the case. But after the Trump administration withdrew policy guidance issued by the Obama administration to clarify protections for transgender students, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Fourth Circuit for further consideration. As two of the Fourth Circuit judges noted, the Supreme Court’s actions meant that Gavin’s banishment from the boys’ restroom would be “an enduring feature of his high school experience.”

The fight, however, is not over. We remain confident in the strength of Gavin’s case. The withdrawal of the guidance does not change the fact that Gavin and other transgender students are protected under Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in schools, and that the school board’s bathroom policy violates that law.

This case has been down a long, winding road, but the journey continues. As it works its way through the courts, it may yet reach the Supreme Court again. Every step of the way — beginning with his first speech before his school board — Gavin has shown great courage in standing up for himself and for other trans youth. As Judge Andre Davis put it, “By challenging unjust policies rooted in invidious discrimination, [Gavin Grimm] takes his place among other modern-day human rights leaders who strive to ensure that, one day, equality will prevail, and that the core dignity of every one of our brothers and sisters is respected by lawmakers and others who wield power over their lives.”

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