Virginia – The long awaited decision by the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Gavin Grimm vs. Gloucester County arrived on 4/19. Grimm, a 16-year-old transgender high school student was suing his school system for the right to use the boy’s restroom at his school. A lower court ruled against him that Title IX, the portion of U.S. civil rights law that deals with non-discrimination in schools, did not provide for a right to use a bathroom corresponding to a student’s gender identity. The appeals court found that decision in error, stating in their opinion that the U.S. Department of Education should receive deference in interpreting its own regulations. The ruling means that in the states of Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and North and South Carolina, students have the right to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity, as long as the Department of Education continues to interpret Title IX in that way.
The case now returns to the lower court where the same judge will rehear the case within the guidance provided by the appellate court. As part of the decision, the higher court declined to assign the case to a different judge, despite his referring to being transgender as a “mental disorder”, and using language that the plaintiff “wants to be a boy.” Given that judge’s points of view, there may be some uncertainty as to the exact outcome in the lower court when the case is retried.
In a later development, NBC news reports that the Gloucester County School Board voted unanimously to pursue an appeal in the case.
Tennessee – The Tennessean reports that Susan Lynn, the Republican state representative who had introduced a transgender bathroom bill in the state legislature has withdrawn the bill for further study. The bill would have required transgender students in Tennessee public schools to use only restrooms corresponding to their sex at birth. This makes it unlikely that the bill will become law this year.
Massachusetts – The Advocate reports that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker spoke on April 21 of his desire to be on “the right side of history” with regard to a transgender rights bill that activists are pushing there this year.
He has taken heavy fire in recent weeks for declining to indicate whether he supported the bill. Supporters are taking these words as a hopeful sign that he won’t veto the bill if, as expected, it passes the heavily Democratic state House and Senate. The bill corrects a law passed in 2011 that omitted public accommodations from the anti-discrimination protections trans people receive.
North Carolina – The Advocate also reports that Billy Richardson, a Democratic member of the North Carolina House has announced plans to introduce a bill repealing HB2, the hastily passed anti-LGBT law that, among other things, required bathroom use only by sex recorded on a birth certificate. Richardson initially voted for the bill but has stated publicly in an opinion published in the Fayetteville Observer that he “did the wrong thing” and now wants to “make it right.” Also, the United States Civil Rights Commission announced Monday that it voted to condemn strongly the North Carolina law, stating that it jeopardizes the dignity and safety of transgender people.