BREAKING: Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals Upholds Transgender Protections In Public Schools

Lambda Legal says this is a “game changer.” Chris Geidner reports at Buzzfeed:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Department of Education’s interpretation of existing federal civil rights laws to protect transgender people against discrimination in education.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld the department’s interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to include protections in the law’s ban on sex discrimination that allow transgender people to use a restroom in accordance with their gender identity.

The appeals court first held that the language of regulations implementing Title IX were ambiguous as to transgender restroom use and then finding that the department’s interpretation of those regulations — allowing transgender students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity — was a legitimate interpretation.

“We conclude that the Department’s interpretation of its own regulation … as it relates to restroom access by transgender individuals, is entitled to … deference and is to be accorded controlling weight

Lambda Legal’s Jon Davidson writes at Facebook:

Wowie, yowie, zowie!!! The Fourth Circuit just ruled that Title IX obligates schools that receive federal financial assistance to allow transgender students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. This is a game changer. Congratulations to Josh Block at the ACLU, who argued the appeal, and to everyone who worked on this case (including Tara Borelli and Kyle Palazzolo, who authored Lambda Legal’s amicus brief on appeal). For those of you who don’t know, North Carolina is within the Fourth Circuit and governed by this decision. Bye, bye H.B. 2.

UPDATE: The ACLU reacts.

A federal court of appeals today ruled in favor of transgender male student Gavin Grimm in his challenge to Gloucester High School’s discriminatory restroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers by requiring them to use “alternative, private” facilities.

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit marks the first time that a federal appeals court has determined that Title IX protects the rights of transgender students to use sex segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity. The Fourth Circuit remanded the case for the district court to reevaluate Gavin’s request for a preliminary injunction under the proper legal standard.

“I feel so relieved and vindicated by the court’s ruling.” said Grimm. “Today’s decision gives me hope that my fight will help other kids avoid discriminatory treatment at school.”

“Today’s Fourth Circuit decision is a vindication for Gavin and a reinforcement of the Department of Education’s policy.” said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project. “With this decision, we hope that schools and legislators will finally get the message that excluding transgender kids from the restrooms is unlawful sex discrimination.”

“Gavin’s fight has been a beacon of hope in the face of increasingly hostile rhetoric against transgender people in Virginia, and across the nation,” said Gail Deady, The Secular Society Women’s Rights Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia. “The court’s ruling sends a strong message to schools and lawmakers that discriminatory restroom policies don’t just harm transgender students, they put Title IX funding at risk.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia brought the case in June 2015 seeking a preliminary injunction so that Gavin may use the boys’ restroom when school resumed for his junior year. In September, U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar ruled against Gavin by dismissing his Title IX claim but allowed his case, under the Equal Protection claim, to proceed.