The Supreme Court announced today that it is sending back the case of high school student Gavin Grimm to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case will be reconsidered by the Fourth Circuit because that court’s initial ruling was based on guidance issued by the Obama administration clarifying Title IX protections for transgender students, and that guidance was recently rescinded by the Trump administration. While this means that the Supreme Court will no longer hear arguments in Gavin’s case on March 28th, other transgender student cases are currently moving through lower courts – including Transgender Law Center’s case on behalf of Wisconsin student Ash Whitaker, which will be heard by the Seventh Circuit on March 29th.
“This is disappointing, and it’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court did not take this opportunity to clarify once and for all that transgender students are protected under Title IX,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “This does not change the law or end the case, but we know some school districts already target transgender youth and will take advantage of this moment to take actions that discriminate against transgender students. Students, families, and schools should know that this does not change the fact that federal law protects transgender students, as the vast majority of courts have found. If any student experiences discrimination at school, we urge you to contact Transgender Law Center or another LGBT legal organization for assistance enforcing your legal rights.”
Even though the Supreme Court will not be hearing the case, the huge outpouring of support for Gavin in friend-of-the-court briefs was historic and sends a powerful message about the depth and breadth of support for transgender students from businesses, schools, legal scholars, medical professionals, women’s groups, civil rights groups, families, bar associations, and others. Read Transgender Law Center’s brief focused on families of transgender youth here.
“While it would have been helpful for the Supreme Court to resolve this issue to prevent further discrimination, the Supreme Court is reluctant to weigh in before the lower courts have had an opportunity to address an issue,” said Ilona Turner, legal director at Transgender Law Center. “We are optimistic the Fourth Circuit will reach the right result, as virtually every other court to consider the issue has done. The Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case at this time does not change the meaning of existing law. Title IX and the constitution continue to protect transgender students and their families from discrimination.”
More and more courts have held that while litigation is moving forward on this issue, transgender students must not be discriminated against and should have access to facilities in accordance with their gender identity. For example, in our case involving a transgender student in Wisconsin – Ash Whitaker — the District Court ruled last fall that the school must immediately stop its discriminatory policy of singling him out and forcing him to use a restroom separate from all other students as the litigation moves forward. Similarly, a Court in Ohio recently ruled in favor of a transgender students and just last week, a court in Pennsylvania held that transgender students must be allowed the proper use facilities while the case is being litigated.
Transgender Law Center will continue to fight so all transgender students can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination. In addition to legal strategies, Transgender Law Center has a joint youth leadership program with GSA Network, TRUTH, through which transgender youth are mobilizing to protect and support each other in the face of increased visibility and hostility. Even though the law supports transgender youth, many young people continue to face violence and discrimination from their schools and communities. Actions by the administration and the failure of the Supreme Court to address this issue will only increase difficult conditions for youth across the country. In a recent blog post, TRUTH youth council leader Violet Martinez called on community members, families, and allies to rally together and “#ShowUp4TransYouth.”
Any student who is having any difficulties at school should contact Transgender Law Center.