The Supreme Court this morning announced that it is remanding and vacating the lower-court decision in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., the first transgender-rights case that the high court had ever agreed to hear.
So what does this mean, in laypeople’s terms? The Supreme Court had scheduled oral arguments for March 28. Now those arguments won’t happen this month. Instead, the case is going back to a lower federal court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, for more deliberation.
Why did this happen? Last year, the Obama administration sent a letter to schools nationwide advising them that Title IX, a federal civil-rights law, prohibits schools from discriminating on the basis of gender identity and requires them to offer transgender students equal access to school amenities, including restrooms.
In the Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. case, the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of the student, Gavin Grimm, and based its opinion on this Obama-era guidance. The Trump administration, however, recently revoked that guidance.
In light of that action, the Supreme Court is asking the appeals court to reconsider its earlier ruling, even though both Gavin and the Gloucester County School Board last week asked the high court to proceed with the case.
Thanks to the Trump administration, the Supreme Court's first transgender-rights case has been delayed.
Many organizations, businesses, government bodies and others filed briefs in support of Gavin last week, including us here at AU. We were joined by the National LGBT Bar Association in a friend-of-the-court brief, which asked the high court to affirm the appeals court’s ruling. We argue that religious or moral beliefs cannot dictate how government enforces the law, especially when those beliefs result in harm to others.
“To be sure, some people hold deeply entrenched moral and religious beliefs regarding traditional sex roles and transgender people,” the brief explains. “Some of them spoke at the (School) Board’s meetings; others have filed amicus briefs in this case. They are entitled to hold whatever views they wish; no court can dictate how a person should think. But this Court has never allowed such views to override federal antidiscrimination laws.”
“Gloucester’s demeaning policy treats Gavin and transgender students like second-class citizens,” Barry W. Lynn, AU’s executive director, said in a statement last week. “It’s disgraceful that the school board is discriminating against children, and that members of the community encouraged the board to discriminate in the name of religion. Gavin simply wants to be treated with dignity and equality, like every other Gloucester student.”
Gavin is now a senior, and it’s a shame that this delay takes the case off the Supreme Court’s docket, at least for now. But the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Gavin, has vowed that the case will go on.
AU will continue to support Gavin’s fight for equality, and especially the fight against those who would use religion as an excuse to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and others. Learn more about Gavin’s case on our Protect Thy Neighbor site.