Supreme Court Decides Not to Hear Gavin Grimm’s Transgender Bathroom Case After All

 Journalist Katie Couric (center), Gavin Grimm (right) and a guest attend  screening of Gender Revolution: A Journey With Katie Couric on Feb. 2, 2017. (Brad Barket/Getty Images)
Journalist Katie Couric (center), Gavin Grimm (right) and a guest attend screening of Gender Revolution: A Journey With Katie Couric on Feb. 2, 2017. (Brad Barket/Getty Images)

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not hear the case of a transgender Virginia teen fighting to use the bathroom of his choice in school, reversing an earlier decision to hear the case on March 28.


NBC News reports that in addition to deciding not to hear the case of Gavin Grimm, the court also wiped off the books a lower-court ruling that was in favor of Grimm.

Last month the Trump administration announced a change in a policy that had given federal guidance to public schools about transgender bathroom use, and the lower court had relied in part on the earlier policy.

When the policy change was announced, the Supreme Court asked lawyers involved with the case if it should proceed, and while both sides urged the court to hear the case, Monday’s order took the case off the court’s calendar with no noted dissent.

Grimm told MSNBC Monday that he was “disappointed” that the Supreme Court would not take up the case, but said he will keep fighting for the rights of transgender people to exist in public spaces.

“I’ve had so many people come up to me and say that I’ve changed their minds, I’ve helped them come to terms with either their own transition or the transition of a loved one,” Grimm said. “I definitely think I’ve been seeing a real-world, very positive impact with what I’m doing and with just the conversation in general, and I can’t be more overjoyed to hear that. I think just one changed heart is totally worth it.”


Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told MSNBC, “It’s not a loss. It’s really just a temporary setback,” and noted that a handful of cases involving similar issues are working their way through the federal courts.

From NBC News:

Grimm’s case came to the Supreme Court on an appeal from the school board in Gloucester County, Va., after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Grimm. He was born female but began to identify as male after his freshman year. He legally changed his name and began hormone therapy.

The principal at first gave him permission to use the boys’ bathroom, but the school board adopted a policy saying restrooms were “limited to the corresponding biological genders.”

Grimm sued, claiming that the arrangement made him feel stigmatized and isolated, and the appeals court ruled in his favor. It said refusing to allow students to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity would violate a federal law known as Title IX that bans sex discrimination.

The ruling cited an Education Department letter that said “a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” The appeals court found that to be a reasonable interpretation of Title IX.


The Trump administration’s February policy change rescinded the Education Department letter as well as the Obama administration’s guidance that advised public schools that denying students the use of bathroom facilities matching their gender identity could cause the schools to lose federal funding.

Grimm’s case has now been sent back to the 4th Circuit Court, which could in turn send it back to the Virginia trial court.


NBC reports that the Gloucester County (Va.) School Board said Monday that it “looks forward to explaining why its commonsense restroom and locker room policy is legal under the Constitution and federal law.”

Meanwhile, the ACLU said it was encouraged by support for Grimm’s case.

Joshua Block, the ACLU attorney who represented Grimm, said, “While we’re disappointed that the Supreme Court will not be hearing Gavin’s case this term, the overwhelming level of support shown for Gavin and trans students by people across the country throughout this process shows that the American people have already moved in the right direction and that the rights of trans people cannot be ignored.”


Read more at NBC News.

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.



I don’t think the article makes it fully clear why the Supreme Court turned down the case. As Amy Howe from SCOTUSblog explains:

The 4th Circuit’s decision had relied heavily on a 2015 opinion letter from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights [...] But, on February 22, the Trump administration revoked that guidance. [...]

Even when both sides agree that a case should go forward, however, the justices often prefer not to weigh in on a question that a lower court has not fully vetted. And so today, in a one-sentence order, the court passed the case back to the 4th Circuit for further proceedings, which presumably will include a closer look at the question of whether the school board’s policy violates Title IX.

Further, from the New York Times:

A 1975 regulation adopted under Title IX allowed schools to provide “separate toilet, locker rooms and shower facilities on the basis of sex.” The Fourth Circuit said that the rule was ambiguous and that the Education Department’s interpretation of it was entitled to “controlling weight.”

Emphasis mine.

Basically, the appeals court ruled in favor of Grimm in large part because the government (i.e. the Obama administration) said Title IX would be violated here. Now, the government (i.e. the Trump administration) no longer says that. So the appeals court ruling is on shakier ground. The SC is sending the case back so that the issue of Title IX’s applicability can be properly argued.

It definitely sucks that Grimm and other transgender people will have to wait to have their day at the SC, especially since he will probably be done with high school by the time this case works its way back to Washington.