October 28, 2016 at 3:23 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Supreme Court to hear Gavin Grimm case

Gavin Grimm (Photo courtesy of American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia)

Gavin Grimm (Photo courtesy of American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday said it would hear a transgender Virginia student’s lawsuit against his school district’s bathroom policy.

Gavin Grimm, a student at Gloucester County High School, alleges the Gloucester County School District’s policy that prohibits him from using the boys restroom or locker room because they are not consistent with his “biological gender” is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. His lawsuit also contends the regulation violates Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits schools receiving federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled in Grimm’s favor in April.

The Supreme Court in August issued an injunction against the decision that would have allowed Grimm to use the boys restroom during his senior year. The Gloucester County School Board subsequently asked the justices to reverse the 4th Circuit’s ruling.

“We are grateful that the Supreme Court has granted the school board’s petition in this difficult case,” said the Gloucester County School Board in a statement. “The board looks forward to explaining to the court that its restroom and locker room policy carefully balances the interests of all students and parents in the Gloucester County school system.”

The American Civil Liberties Union represents Grimm in his case.

Grimm told reporters during a conference call that he is “disappointed” he will have to “spend my final school year being singled out and treated differently from every other guy.“ Josh Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT Project, made a similar point.

“Gavin is just trying to get through the day using the restroom like anyone else,“ he said.

Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, is among the advocates who expressed their support for Grimm.

“Schools cannot harass, discriminate against, and single out students because they are transgender, and we look forward to Gavin, backed by the ACLU, having his day in court,” said Hayashi.

“Every day that discrimination is allowed to continue, transgender students are put at even greater risk of harm,” added Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “No young person should wake up in the morning fearful of bullying or discrimination during the school day ahead.”

Groups ‘hopeful’ Supreme Court will uphold 4th Circuit ruling

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the Grimm case against the backdrop of the national debate over whether trans people have the constitutional right to use bathrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory in April signed House Bill 2, which prevents trans people from using public bathrooms that are consistent with their gender identity. The controversial law that has sparked outrage across the country also prohibits local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination measures.

The Justice Department in May filed a civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina over HB 2. McCrory last month quietly withdrew a lawsuit that his administration brought against the Obama administration.

North Carolina is among the states under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder in August ruled the University of North Carolina could not enforce HB 2 because it likely violates Title IX.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against HB 2 on behalf of four LGBT North Carolinians. The groups said in a statement they are “hopeful” the Supreme Court “will affirm the sound decision from the 4th Circuit and recognize the profound harms from rules that ban transgender individuals from using the restroom.”

“For Gavin and other transgender students who are barred from using appropriate restrooms, every day these exclusionary and discriminatory policies are in place is extremely harmful,” they added. ”We will continue to fight HB 2 on behalf of transgender people across North Carolina.”

Block told reporters in response to the Washington Blade’s question about the 4th Circuit’s ruling that the Supreme Court’s decision to accept the Grimm case will not have any impact.

“The law in the 4th Circuit is the same today as it was yesterday,” he said.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case sometime in early 2017.

The U.S. Senate has yet to hold a hearing on whether to confirm Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy left in the wake of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The 4th Circuit’s ruling that allowed Grimm to use the boys bathroom would remain in place if the Supreme Court were to issue a 4-4 ruling.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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