Gavin Grimm, a transgender 20-year-old college student who has waged a five-year battle in the courts against a Virginia school board that denied him access to the boy’s bathroom in high school, finally won a definitive victory. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to accept the Gloucester County School Board’s appeal of a 2020 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Grimm’s favor. As is typical in such orders, SCOTUS did not explain its reasoning, though it did indicate that Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito supported a grant of certiorari to hear the appeal.
Grimm’s legal fight encompassed a period of turmoil but eventual progress in the vindication of transgender rights. The Trump administration’s Education and Justice Departments tried to unravel his initial wins in court by reversing an Obama administration policy protecting transgender students under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But Grimm and his allies, notably the American Civil Liberties Union, battled back. Shortly after the Supreme Court held that Title IX did indeed protect transgender students in its landmark Bostock v. Clayton County decision, the Fourth Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, held that the requirement Grimm utilize a segregated bathroom did indeed violate both Title IX and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Seven justices saw no need to second-guess that conclusion, and the Court’s two most doctrinaire conservatives threw in the towel without bothering to air their disagreement with the direction of the law or our society.
Grimm was understandably relieved, as NBC News reported:
“Being forced to use the nurse’s room, a private bathroom, and the girl’s room was humiliating for me, and having to go to out-of-the-way bathrooms severely interfered with my education,” he said. “Trans youth deserve to use the bathroom in peace without being humiliated and stigmatized by their own school boards and elected officials.”
The next big legal battleground involving transgender rights in the schools will likely stem from the current right-wing drive in state legislatures to ban transgender athletes from participating in sports competitions matching their gender identities.