Civil Rights

Transgender teen called 'modern-day human rights leader' in 4th Circuit concurrence

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A transgender teen may once again be banned from the boys’ restroom at his high school as a result of an appeals court order Friday.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction that had allowed Gavin Grimm to use the boys’ restroom at his high school. The order (PDF) was unanimous, but two judges used a concurrence to praise Grimm and his “struggle for justice.”

The 4th Circuit had ruled that the Gloucester County School District violated Grimm’s rights under federal education law, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

But the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the 4th Circuit’s decision in March and returned the case to the 4th Circuit for reconsideration as a result of a switch in position by the Trump administration. The new administration withdrew guidance that had interpreted the law to require schools to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.

The passionate concurrence (PDF) by Judge Andre Davis, joined by Judge Henry Floyd, was getting lots of attention among legal tweeters. Grimm is referred to as “G.G.” in the court case.

Davis said he concurred in vacating the injunction because there had been no opposition to the motion to lift it. But he expressed concern for Grimm and the need for to recognize the humanity of transgender people.

“High school graduation looms and, by this court’s order vacating the preliminary injunction, G.G.’s banishment from the boys’ restroom becomes an enduring feature of his high school experience,” Davis wrote.

“G.G.’s case is about much more than bathrooms. It’s about a boy asking his school to treat him just like any other boy. It’s about protecting the rights of transgender people in public spaces and not forcing them to exist on the margins. It’s about governmental validation of the existence and experiences of transgender people, as well as the simple recognition of their humanity. His case is part of a larger movement that is redefining and broadening the scope of civil and human rights so that they extend to a vulnerable group that has traditionally been unrecognized, unrepresented, and unprotected. …

“Today, hatred, intolerance, and discrimination persist—and are sometimes even promoted—but by challenging unjust policies rooted in invidious discrimination, G.G. takes his place among other modern-day human rights leaders who strive to ensure that, one day, equality will prevail, and that the core dignity of every one of our brothers and sisters is respected by lawmakers and others who wield power over their lives.”

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