March 3, 2017 at 9:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Va. Supreme Court hears Fairfax school district lawsuit

transgender students, gay news, Washington Blade

The Virginia Supreme Court on March 2, 2017, heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenges the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the Fairfax County School District’s nondiscrimination policy.

The Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenges the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the Fairfax County School District’s nondiscrimination policy.

The Washington Times reported Daniel Schmidt, a lawyer for the Liberty Counsel who represents Traditional Values Coalition President Andrea Lafferty and an unnamed minor and his parents, told the court the Dillon Rule prohibits school boards from adding LGBT-specific provisions to their nondiscrimination policies unless the Virginia General Assembly were to pass a law allowing them to do so.

“The state law does not permit local municipal governments, including the school board of Fairfax County, to enact laws that are more extensive than state laws on discrimination,” said Schmidt, according to the Washington Times. “The Virginia Human Rights Act doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity, and by including that in the school nondiscrimination policy, they have exceeded the bounds of what they’re authorized to do.”

Members of the Fairfax County School Board added sexual orientation and gender identity to the district’s nondiscrimination policy in November 2014 and May 2015 respectively.

Elizabeth Schultz, a Republican who represents the Springfield District, is the only member of the school board who voted against the inclusion of gender identity in the district’s nondiscrimination policy. The Traditional Values Coalition endorsed her 2015 re-election campaign.

Attorney General Mark Herring in a 2015 opinion wrote that state law does allow school boards to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in their respective districts. Liberty Counsel Chair Mat Staver in a statement described the school board’s decision to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the district’s nondiscrimination policy as a “lawless act” that “violates state law and harms children.”

“This is a matter of statewide and national concern,” he said.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Grimm case on March 28

The U.S. Supreme Court on March 28 is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who alleges the Gloucester County School District’s policy that prohibits him from using the boys bathroom or locker room violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. President Trump last week rescinded guidance on how public schools should accommodate trans students.

Robert Rigby, Jr., president of FCPS Pride, a group that represents LGBT employees of the Fairfax County School Board, told the Washington Blade he remains “assured that Fairfax County Schools will continue to defend its inclusive nondiscrimination and anti-bullying policies.” He also sharply criticized Lafferty and the Liberty Counsel for challenging the policy.

“We are appalled that Andrea Lafferty and her legal firm Liberty Counsel are suing for the right to, among other things, verbally harass LGBT students and staff with impunity,” Rigby told the Blade. “Some of these protections have existed in Fairfax County since 2000, and all students are safer because of them.”

Lafferty defended her decision to challenge the policy.

“There have been attempts at compromise, but the school district really has not gone along with that,” she told the Washington Times. “And what you’ll find from the politicized, transgender community is they don’t even want to use the unisex bathroom or family bathrooms, they want men who are confused and think they are women to be able to use the women’s bathroom.”

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

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