Federal Appeals Court Hears Arguments in Virginia Case to Protect Transgender Student Under Title IX

ACLU Challenges Restroom Policy Forcing Transgender Students to Use Separate Facilities

January 27, 2016 11:00 am

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RICHMOND, Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union will appear before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today to argue that a policy in Gloucester, Virginia segregating transgender students from their peers by requiring them to use “alternative, private” restroom facilities violates federal non-discrimination laws and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The ACLU and ACLU of Virginia brought the case challenging the discriminatory Gloucester County School Board policy in June 2015 on behalf of transgender male student Gavin Grimm. Both the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice have since ruled that, under Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, schools must allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identity.

This is the first time that a federal court of appeals will consider the issue.

“This argument comes at a critical time. The U.S. Department of Education, the DOJ and several other federal entities have recently recognized that in order to equally participate in school, work, and society, transgender people have to use the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project. “We hope the federal courts join this consensus and make clear that Title IX protects transgender students from sex discrimination.”

In September 2015, the district court ruled against Gavin and dismissed his Title IX claim, despite a brief filed by the U.S. Department of Justice stating that, “there is public interest in ensuring that transgender students have the opportunity to learn in an environment free of sex discrimination.” Its ruling kept the policy in place and prevented Gavin from starting his junior year with access to the boys’ restroom, even though he has been living as a boy and taking hormone therapy as part of his recommended treatment for gender dysphoria. The ACLU filed its appeal with the 4th Circuit in October 2015.

“Ever since this battle with the school board began more than a year ago, I’ve been forced to confront ridicule and public insult from people who refuse to see me as a human, male student worthy of respect and equal treatment,” said Gavin. “But in spite of the humiliation I feel every time I’m forced to use the bathroom, I will continue to stand up for myself and other transgender students who shouldn’t be treated differently simply because of who they are.”

Federal appeals arguments in the Gloucester case come on the heels of a landmark ruling by the U.S. Department of Education in a similar case brought by the ACLU of Illinois. In that case, the DOE held that a suburban Chicago school had violated federal law by denying a transgender female student access to gender-appropriate locker room facilities.

To date, the DOE, DOJ, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Labor and Office of Personnel Management have agreed that transgender people should be able to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

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