Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Transgender bathroom ban heard by federal appeals court

The Gloucester County School Board defended its transgender bathroom ban before a federal appeals court Tuesday, as a transgender man who was barred as a student from using the boys’ bathrooms at his high school argued that the policy discriminated against him and violated his constitutional rights.

A judge ruled last year that the Gloucester County School Board had discriminated against Gavin Grimm, but the board appealed that ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

David Corrigan, an attorney for the school board, said school officials treated Grimm with respect after he began transitioning from female to male during high school, accommodating his request to use male pronouns and to be called by his new name.

Grimm had chest reconstruction surgery and hormone therapy. He also obtained a Virginia court order and Virginia birth certificate declaring his sex is male in 2016, when he was in 12th grade.

Grimm’s lawsuit alleged that the school board violated Grimm’s equal protection rights as well as Title IX, the federal policy that protects against gender-based discrimination.

But Corrigan argued that the law protects against discrimination based on gender, not gender identity. Corrigan said that because Grimm had not undergone sex-reassignment surgery and still had female genitalia, the board’s position was that he remained anatomically a female.

“Our position is it’s a binary concept, that you have males and females,” Corrigan said.

Joshua Block, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the board treated Grimm differently than other students when it required him to use separate but unequal facilities — either bathrooms that corresponded with his biological gender — female — or private bathrooms.

“They were stigmatizing and humiliating,” Block said.

“It’s stigmatizing to be excluded from the facilities that everyone else uses,” he said.

Grimm’s lawsuit was once a federal test case that drew national attention. He graduated in 2017 from Gloucester High School.

The three-judge panel that heard the case Tuesday did not indicate when it would issue a ruling. The arguments were held remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The hearing was the latest step in a years-long legal battle. Grimm’s lawsuit was supposed to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the high court hearing was canceled after President Donald Trump rescinded an Obama-era directive that students can choose bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen in Norfolk ruled in August that the board discriminated against Grimm.

“(T)here is no question that the Board’s policy discriminates against transgender students on the basis of their gender noncomformity,” Allen wrote.

“Under the policy, all students except for transgender students may use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity,” she continued. “Transgender students are singled out, subjected to discriminatory treatment, and excluded from spaces where similarly situated students are permitted to go.”

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John Mangalonzohttp://wydaily.com
John Mangalonzo (john@localdailymedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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