The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in a 2-to-1 decision last month, found in favor of Mr. Grimm in his five-year-long battle with the Gloucester County School Board, a case that has become a flash point in the battle over the rights of LGBTQ students. The appeals court previously had backed Mr. Grimm, but the Supreme Court sent the case back to lower courts after the Trump administration in its first months in office rescinded Title IX protections for transgender students.
“At the heart of this appeal is whether equal protection and Title IX can protect transgender students from school bathroom policies that prohibit them from affirming their gender,” U.S. Circuit Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote. “We join a growing consensus of courts on holding that the answer is resoundingly yes.” The Supreme Court in June issued its landmark ruling that federal civil rights prohibitions of workplace discrimination “on the basis of sex” included protections against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. And earlier last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld a lower-court ruling in favor of a Florida teenager who sought to use bathrooms that aligned with his gender identity.
Mr. Grimm was 16 and a sophomore at Gloucester High School when his desire to just be “a normal child and use the restroom in peace” became an ugly and unnecessary public controversy. The boy was undergoing hormone therapy, had legally changed his name and had been using the boys’ restrooms without incident for two months when the school board opened up a community debate and implemented a policy that required him to use separate bathrooms that, as the appeals court wrote, “might as well have said ‘Gavin’ on the sign.” Kudos to Mr. Grimm for his bravery in waging this battle, to the American Civil Liberties Union for its committed representation of him and to the appeals court for recognizing the important legal and personal principles at issue.
We hope the school board, which could still seek further appeal, finally gets the message. “The proudest moments of the federal judiciary,” the court wrote, “are when we affirm the burgeoning values of our bright youth, rather than preserve the prejudices of the past. . . . How shallow a promise of equal protection that would not protect Grimm from the fantastical fears and unfounded prejudices of his adult community. It is time to move forward.”