Supreme Court sends transgender rights case back to appeals court

The decision will not affect legal challenges to HB2

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Hundreds gathered outside the Chapel Hill Post Office to protest North Carolina's passing of House Bill 2 in March of 2016.

The case, G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, will now be reheard by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender student from Virginia and the plaintiff of the case, was denied access to the bathroom matching his gender identity in a public school in 2014.

Before guidance from the Obama administration — which extended Title IX protections to include transgender students ­— was removed by the Trump presidency, Grimm’s case was a “slam dunk,” said Maxine Eichner, a UNC law professor.

“Essentially what the G.G. case had said is that courts have to defer to the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, and that interpretation clearly said that trans youth have to be allowed access to the bathroom that comports with their gender identity,” she said.

The question now becomes whether Title IX protections against sex discrimination extend to transgender students, Eichner said.

“The issue is whether the language of the prohibition on sex discrimination in fact guarantees trans youth the right to bathrooms that comport with their gender identity,” she said.

A memo sent by the Trump administration said the letter was rescinded because of conflicting legal rulings in the lower courts and not because of re-evaluation of their policies, said Joshua Block, Grimm’s lead attorney, in a letter to the court.

“Delaying resolution would provide no benefit to the Court and would needlessly prolong harm to transgender students across the country awaiting this Court’s decision,” Block wrote.

Mike Meno, communications director of the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he was disappointed that the Supreme Court will not hear the case.

“But that doesn’t change the law, and it doesn’t change the protections that transgender students and transgender people have under the law,” he said.

Meno said the ruling does not have an immediate effect on the ongoing legal battles surrounding House Bill 2.

The state ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of House Bill 2 in court and trying to expand a ruling blocking the UNC system from having to enforce the bathroom provision of the bill, Meno said.

“We are looking forward to going to court in May to fight for our clients and all transgender people in North Carolina who are harmed by HB2 and who deserve the dignity and respect that they are guaranteed by law,” Meno said.

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