Even as a high-profile fight continues over a North Carolina law directing transgender people to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates, a federal appeals court has weighed in on a similar policy in Virginia.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled Tuesday in a 2-to-1 decision that Gavin Grimm, a high school junior, could sue his school board for discrimination because he was banned from using a restroom for boys. This highly watched ruling now raises the question of what it means for North Carolina’s HB2, which covers public school bathrooms. North Carolina is in the 4th Circuit region.

Gloucester County, Va., transgender teen Gavin Floyd is fighting his school board for the right to use the boys' bathroom. (YouTube/ACLU)

Opponents of North Carolina’s measure praised the ruling and described it as a victory, while supporters of the law assailed the court for setting what they called a dangerous precedent.

Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who signed the North Carolina law and has decried what he called “a vicious nationwide smear campaign” against the measure, said the state would have to examine the ruling’s impact on North Carolina.

“I strongly disagree with both President Obama and Attorney General Roy Cooper’s objective to force our high schools to allow boys in girls’ rest rooms, locker rooms or shower facilities,” McCrory said in a statement Tuesday. “I think that’s bad precedent and I don’t think it’s the traditional way we do things.”

McCrory is facing Cooper, the state’s Democratic attorney general, in a gubernatorial campaign this fall that is expected to be closely fought. Cooper has called on McCrory to support repeal of the measure, and a recent poll showed the attorney general taking a six-point lead amid mounting criticism of the North Carolina law. A host of big businesses have spoken out against it, and at least two major companies — PayPal and Deutsche Bank — scrapped planned expansions in North Carolina as a result.

In his statement, McCrory said that the ruling was an example of the federal government “forcing brand new standards.” Phil Berger, president pro tempore of the state Senate, released a statement saying that “Roy Cooper, Barack Obama and two unelected federal judges are on the verge of completing their radical social re-engineering of our society by forcing middle school-aged girls to share school locker rooms with boys.”

However, groups that have sued North Carolina over its law said that the appeals court’s ruling backs up an argument they made in their lawsuit.

North Carolina's LGBTQ community protests the state's new anti-transgender bathroom law. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

The ruling “makes plain that North Carolina’s House Bill 2 violates Title IX by discriminating against transgender students and forcing them to use the wrong restroom at school,” the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal said in a joint statement. They also called on McCrory and state legislators to repeal the bill and, in its place, enact “full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.”

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said the “historic decision is not only a victory for Gavin, but for all transgender young people who are being targeted by discriminatory actions.” And in a statement Tuesday, she described the ruling as binding for North Carolina, and said her group expected the state’s public schools “to immediately comply, ensuring transgender students full protections under the law, which includes full access to the appropriate facilities.”

This week, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights criticized the North Carolina law and said that it “jeopardizes not only the dignity, but also the actual physical safety, of transgender people.”

In addition to an outcry from business groups over the North Carolina law, Bruce Springsteen, Cirque du Soleil and, this week, Pearl Jam, have all canceled performances to protest the measure.

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