The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, heard arguments Wednesday in a potentially landmark case revolving around a transgender 16-year-old's request to use the boys' bathroom at school. Gavin Grimm and the American Civil Liberties Union are suing the Gloucester County School Board, and it marks the first time a federal appeals court will rule on transgender students' bathroom rights, MSNBC reported.
Grimm was assigned female at birth but was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in ninth grade. He started to live as a boy, and the school initially supported him by letting him use the boys' bathroom. Seven weeks later, parent complaints caused the school to reverse its decision — a move supported by the Gloucester school board. Grimm was required to use the girl's room, a unisex bathroom or special facilities.
"It causes me a lot of discomfort," Grimm told MSNBC. "It’s very ‘othering.’ It sort of puts a magnifying glass on my already existing conflicts with my gender identity and physical sex."
— ACLU of Virginia (@ACLUVA) January 27, 2016
Grimm and the ACLU filed a lawsuit last June over the district policy, which they alleged violated transgender students' rights. They also asked for an injunction to let Grimm use the boys' bathroom. U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar denied the injunction and dismissed part of the case in July, ruling that the district had not breached the Title IX anti-discrimination law. The ACLU then appealed and asked for a new judge, though Doumar hasn't ruled on whether the challenge that the school violated the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause can stand, the Daily Press reported.
School district attorney David Corrigan said in July that Grimm wasn't experiencing discrimination because he could use alternate facilities if he wanted. "All students have equal comparable restroom facilities," Corrigan said. "He is not being treated differently."
The U.S. Education Department and Justice Department both backed Grimm in October. If the appeals court decision is in Grimm's favor, transgender students across the country could have a legal precedent to point to in requesting access to certain bathrooms and locker rooms.
“It will likely be a bellwether one way or another that people will look to in the immediate future to look to see where courts are headed,” ACLU attorney Joshua Block told the Washington Post.
Grimm wasn't the first student to encounter problems trying to use the bathroom of his choice. In September, hundreds of students and parents staged walkouts in Hillsboro, Missouri, over senior Lila Perry's request to use the girls' locker room. In Illinois earlier this month, an unidentified transgender girl was given access to the girls' locker room after the Education Department threatened to revoke the school's federal funding.
The court probably won't rule in Grimm's case for months.