Gloucester County transgender student granted trial after hearing in Norfolk
A transgender Gloucester County teen who is challenging his school board over a restrictive bathroom policy will get his day in court.
At a hearing today, Gavin Grimm, 16, went before a Federal District Senior Judge Robert G. Doumar to fight for his right to use the bathroom of the gender he identifies with. A sophomore at Gloucester High School, he is suing the local school board for sex discrimination.
With the American Civil Liberties Union by his side, Grimm appealed for a court order requiring the county to allow him to use the men’s restroom, rather than the female restroom aligning with his birth gender.
The Gloucester County School Board voted to require all students to use the bathroom associated with their birth gender or single-stall private bathrooms in December of last year. Grimm had been using the men’s bathroom without incident until the school board stepped in.
The School board not only faces Grimm’s legal challenge, they also face the Department of Justice which wrote a letter supporting trans-students’ rights to use restrooms aligned with their gender identity.
David Corrigan, attorney on behalf of Gloucester County school board, opened the trial emphasizing that the county has upheld the Title IX federal amendment and Equal Protection Law as members of the transgender community are not protected classes, and the school had opened three gender neutral restrooms for trans students like Grimm to use, in addition to the women’s restroom, his biological gender.
ACLU Attorney Josh Block, spoke on Grimm’s behalf, stating the county had created a “separate but equal” situation for Grimm, compared it to the issues faced by Black people during the Civil Rights era. He said Grimm was being stigmatized by being forced to use the gender neutral restroom where his classmates had the option to use the restroom they identify with.
“He is not treated the same,” said Block about Grimm. “He doesn’t have a choice [in restrooms].”
Judge Doumar pointed out a number of other concerns with Grimm’s request – he wondered how safe it was for Grimm and other trans students to use restrooms as requested.
“Lots of gay kids have been victims of assault in the boys restroom,” responded Block. “But there’s no policy requiring them to use separate bathrooms.”
Doumar questioned Block extensively, from what defines someone as being transgender to whether or not holding in urine causes infections, an issue in Grimm’s complaint because he’s chosen to avoid the restroom altogether to avoid the stigma associated with being singled out.
Doumar was unafraid to go off topic, discussing marijuana laws, the authority of the Department of Justice, and how he was “rather upset with where we’re going in the United States.”
“You’re fighting an uphill battle,” Doumar told Block after he dismissed the ACLU’s argument that the school board’s policy violated Title IX.
Doumar did allow the case to move forward at an unspecified date, claiming he would issue an opinion and provide a future court date after he took a vacation.
“We think it’s clear that Title IX does not protect the school’s policy,” said Block in a press conference after the hearing. The Title IX argument was important enough to bring attorneys from the Department of Justice down to Norfolk for today’s hearing. They were unable to comment after the Judge’s dismissal.
Block continued to defend Grimm’s rights, despite today’s mixed news.
“The ability to segregate restrooms based on sex doesn’t include the ability to take a trans boy and put him in a girl’s restroom… Being stigmatized every time you have to use the restroom is obviously irreparable harm for anyone,” Block said. “We continue to think that it is imperative that Gavin get equal treatment as soon as he can.”
Our staff of litigators and activists… are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.November 9, 2016
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