In a win for transgender young people, a federal appeals court sided with Gavin Grimm, deciding schools cannot ban students from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The 2-1 decision is part of the years-long case Grimm launched when he was a teen, suing his school board for violating his civil rights.
The US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit struck down the Gloucester County school board’s position that not allowing students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender protects the privacy of other students, instead deciding such policies are sex-based discrimination.
Grimm filed the lawsuit in 2015 after alleging his school not allowing him to use the boys’ bathroom was a violation of his civil rights. He was a sophomore in high school at the time. Now 20, Grimm said in a statement that the court decision is an “incredible affirmation” for trans young people.
“All transgender students should have what I was denied: the opportunity to be seen for who we are by our schools and our government,” he said.
This win comes after the Supreme Court, which had agreed to hear the case in 2016, sent it back to the appeals court when the Trump administration rolled back federal protections for transgender people. The appeals court had previously ruled in Grimm’s favor, basing the decision on Obama-era guidance that directed schools to include transgender students under Title IX protections against sex-based discrimination. When the Trump administration rescinded those protections, the Supreme Court sent the case back based on the new guidance.
Grimm’s lawyer, Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement that the decision is yet another reminder that transgender people belong in our society.
“Transgender students belong in our schools,” he said. “The court once again ruled that school’s obligation to create an environment that is safe and welcoming for all students includes transgender students.”
This sentiment is one the courts have held firm in recent months: in June, the Supreme Court ruled it illegal to fire employees because they identify as LGBTQ.
While we shouldn’t need reminders that transgender people deserve the same discrimination protections cisgender people enjoy, the 4th Circuit Court took the opportunity to make a statement.
“The proudest moments of the federal judiciary have been when we affirm the burgeoning values of our bright youth, rather than preserve the prejudices of the past,” Judge Henry Floyd wrote for the majority opinion. “How shallow a promise of equal protection that would not protect Grimm from the fantastical fears and unfounded prejudices of his adult community.”
Related: Gavin Grimm Talks Bringing Transgender Rights to the Supreme Court