The U.S. Supreme Court will take up bathroom rules for transgender students, the first time the high court has agreed to hear a case involving transgender rights.
The case involves Gavin Grimm, 17, who was born a female but identifies as a male and is suing to win the right to use his school’s boys’ bathroom.
Grimm was allowed to use the boys’ restroom at his Virginia high school for several weeks in 2014, but the school board changed its policy after some parents complained.
Ruling by June
Supreme Court justices agreed to hear the Gloucester County School Board’s appeal of a lower court ruling that would allow Grimm to use the boys’ restroom. They put the lower court ruling on hold until they could consider the matter, meaning Grimm will not be able to use the boys’ bathroom during his final year in high school.
The high court will hear the case and rule before the end of June.
Gloucester County School Board Chairman Troy Andersen welcomed the court’s decision to hear the case.
“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,’’ Andersen said.
In a statement following the Supreme Court announcement, Grimm said, “I never thought that my restroom use would ever turn into any kind of national debate. The only thing I ever asked for was the right to be treated like everyone else.”
The Supreme Court currently has eight justices instead of the normal nine, following the death this year of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. With four conservative justices and four liberal ones, the court is evenly divided.
Transgender bathroom use has been hotly debated in schools, courts and state legislatures across the United States. Lawsuits similar to Grimm’s are pending around the country.
The Obama administration in May directed the nation’s public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity or risk losing their federal funding. Twenty-one states have sued to overturn the directive.
The states argue that changes to federal school policies should be left up to Congress, not the White House. The Justice Department has rejected that argument, saying that federal civil rights laws, which bar discrimination on the basis of sex, provide the legal foundation for the department’s guidance.
The political battle over transgender bathrooms came into the spotlight earlier this year when city officials in Charlotte, North Carolina, passed an anti-discrimination ordinance including a provision allowing transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify.
State legislators in North Carolina overruled the city with a law requiring transgender people to use public restrooms matching the gender listed on their birth certificates.
The statewide debate entered the national discussion when the U.S. Justice Department said the North Carolina state law violated the federal Civil Rights Act, and declared it could not be enforced.
The Justice Department and North Carolina have sued each other over the issue.