Supreme Court Sends Gavin Grimm Transgender Rights Case Back to Appeals Court

  • March 6, 2017


The United States Supreme Court today issued an order declining to decide the issues in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., a case involving the question of whether a Virginia school board’s policy of banning transgender boys and girls from using the same restrooms as their peers violated Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in publicly funded education programs. The Court, which had been set to hear the case on March 28th, sent the case back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration in light of the recent decision by the Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to rescind the Title IX guidance put in place by the Obama administration. That now-rescinded guidance served to protect the rights of transgender students by explaining the proper interpretation of federal antidiscrimination laws.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a coalition in the case last week, is deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court’s move. This decision will likely result in a delay of over a year, creating even further harm, confusion, and continued litigation for transgender students and school districts around the country.

While the Supreme Court’s


 decision is a setback for Gavin Grimm and efforts to ensure the dignity and rights of transgender students, nothing in today’s decision changes the law: Title IX and the Constitution protect transgender students from discrimination today, just as they did yesterday. We are optimistic that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will, again, reach the correct and just conclusion that the school board’s policy is discriminatory under Title IX and must be struck down—and that the Supreme Court will affirm. We will continue to advance the arguments we made in our friend-of-the-court brief in order to support Gavin Grimm and to fight against all laws that discriminate against LGBT people.

In the brief, we rejected the religious-based arguments submitted in support of the school board, asserting instead that “religious disapproval . . . cannot be an excuse for a public school board to discriminate against and ostracize a student because of his gender identity.” Amplifying the point, we observed that “religious disapproval was relied on to support a legal and moral basis for slavery, segregation, anti-miscegenation laws, policies that discriminate against women, and laws that target LGBT people.” Laws that discriminate against transgender people, we argued, will in time join other ignominious laws justified by religious and moral disapproval that are now seen “as a stain on the nation’s history.” Further, we emphasized that religious liberty must operate as a shield, not as a sword to attack the rights of others and thwart the purpose of civil rights law.

Although the Supreme Court’s decision did not go the way that we and many had hoped, trans students continue to be protected by Title IX and the Constitution. They also have the support of civil rights organizations like ADL and millions of people around the country. We are proud to be part of a coalition that will #StandWithGavin and keep fighting for the rights, dignity, and freedom of transgender people.

ADL was joined on the brief by American Humanist AssociationBend the Arc – A Jewish Partnership for JusticeThe Central Conference of American RabbisHadassah – The Women’s Zionist Organization of American, Inc.Interfaith Alliance FoundationThe Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater WashingtonMuslim AdvocatesPeople for the American Way FoundationT’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; Union for Reform Judaism; and Women of Reform Judaism.

The brief was prepared for ADL by the Washington, D.C. law firm Shapiro, Lifschitz & Schram, P.C.

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