August 24, 2016 at 9:55 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Gavin Grimm: Lawsuit against Va. school district ‘exhausting’

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

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

A transgender student who is challenging his Virginia school district’s bathroom policy said on Monday that the case has taken an emotional toll on him and his family.

“It’s been exhausting,” Gavin Grimm told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview from his home in Gloucester County, Va.

Grimm, who will be a senior at Gloucester County High School this fall, spoke with the Blade more than a year after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board on behalf of him.

The lawsuit alleges the 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. Grimm also contends the policy, which the Gloucester County School Board approved in 2014, 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 Justice Department argued in Grimm’s case that Title IX requires school districts to allow trans students to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. The Department of Education’s Office of the General Council also filed a brief in support of the Grimm.

“That was pretty powerful,” Grimm told the Blade, referring to the Obama administration’s decision to intervene in his case. “It felt good to have that kind of progress.”

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond — which is the first federal appeals court to consider whether Title IX allows trans students to use facilities that are consistent with their gender identity — ruled in favor of Grimm. The Gloucester County School Board subsequently announced that it plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-3 decision earlier this month issued an injunction against a 4th Circuit ruling that would have allowed Grimm to use the boys restroom at Gloucester County High School during his senior year. Chief Justice John Roberts on Aug. 16 refused to extend the deadline for the Gloucester County School Board to formally appeal the 4th Circuit’s ruling.

“I absolutely didn’t expect where it has gone . . . in two years time,” said Grimm, referring to his case.

Anti-trans N.C. law ‘very unfortunate’

Efforts to guarantee trans people have access bathrooms that are consistent with their gender identity have gained traction since Grimm filed his lawsuit.

The Department of Education reached an agreement with an Illinois school district late last year that allows a trans high school student to use the girls locker room. Trans students in Maryland and Wisconsin have also challenged their respective schools’ bathroom policies.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this year signed House Bill 2, which prohibits trans people from using bathrooms in public buildings that are consistent with their gender identity and bans local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination measures.

The 4th Circuit — which ruled in favor of Grimm — includes North Carolina. The Justice Department alleges in a civil rights lawsuit it filed against the state in May that HB 2 violates Title IX, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Violence Against Women Act.

“It’s very unfortunate . . . what happened in North Carolina,” Grimm told the Blade.

The Obama administration in May told public schools that Title IX requires them to allow trans students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor earlier this week issued a preliminary injunction against the guidance in response to a lawsuit that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed on behalf of a dozen states and two school districts.

Grimm spoke with the Blade less than a day after O’Conner issued his ruling.

He did not discuss the lawsuit against the Obama administration’s guidance to public schools about allowing trans students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Grimm spoke directly to those people who continue to criticize him.

“I would encourage (people) to think from the perspective . . . to put themselves in a position if they could if they were the only person forced to use the facility separate of that of their peers, especially when this decision was made in a public way that opened them up to the abuse at the meeting in which that was made,” he told the Blade.

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

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