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Obama administration files brief in trans student lawsuit

Gavin Grimm (Photo courtesy of Gavin Grimm)

The Obama administration on Wednesday filed a brief in support of a transgender student who is challenging his Virginia school district’s controversial policy that prevents him from using the boys restroom or locker room.

Attorneys with the Department of Education’s Office of the General Council and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division filed the 40-page brief with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., on behalf of Gavin Grimm.

Grimm, a student at Gloucester County High School, claims in a lawsuit he filed against the Gloucester County School Board in June that the policy violates Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

“Denying a transgender boy access to the boys’ restroom is often much more than a mere inconvenience or limitation on his ability to use the restroom — it can be an effective denial of a restroom altogether,” reads the brief.

“As a result of such a policy, transgender students like G.G. are denied the ability to participate fully in and take advantage of their school’s educational programs,” it adds. “No one could reasonably expect a student to make it through an entire school day without access to a restroom; any student who attempted to do so would likely experience discomfort and anxiety affecting his ability to concentrate during class, further diminishing his educational experience.”

The Gloucester County School Board last December approved the controversial policy.

U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar last month dismissed Grimm’s request for an injunction that would have allowed him to use the boys restroom during the current academic year as his case continues to progress through the courts. Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia who are representing the trans teenager appealed the ruling to the 4th Circuit.

“GCSB’s restroom policy denies G.G. a benefit that all of his peers enjoy — access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity — because, unlike them, his birth-assigned does not align with his gender identity,” reads the brief. “The policy subjects G.G. to differential treatment, and the basis for that treatment — the divergence between his gender identity and what GCSB deemed his “biological gender” — is unquestionably a ‘sex-based consideration.’”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012 issued a landmark ruling that said employment discrimination based on gender identity amounts to sex discrimination under federal law. Then-Attorney General Eric Holder last December said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans workplace discrimination based on gender identity.

The Justice Department in June argued in the Grimm case that Title IX requires school districts allow trans students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

“Although promoting safety and privacy are legitimate goals in the abstract, neither of these rationales can justify a policy that denies G.G. — and other students like him — not just access to the gender-appropriate restroom but, more fundamentally, an equal opportunity at an education,” reads the Obama administration’s latest brief.