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Federal Court of Appeals Hears Va. Transgender Discrimination Case

Gavin Grimm
Gavin Grimm during a press conference in 2016. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

*This story was reported by VPM News intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond heard oral arguments Tuesday on whether a transgender man faced illegal discrimination when he was denied the use of the boys’ restrooms in high school.

Last year, a local district court ruled that the Gloucester County School Board violated Gavin Grimm’s rights under both the 14th Amendment and Title XI, which bans discrimination in public schools on the basis of sex. 

Attorney David Corrigan spoke on behalf of the school district in an effort to appeal the district court decision.

“That individual has the option of using the restroom consistent with their physiological sex or the available single stall restrooms, that’s the position,” Corrigan told the court.

Grimm originally filed the lawsuit in 2015 and has since graduated high school. He also sued the school for issuing an academic transcript that identified him as female. Josh Block, an attorney for the ACLU, said these policies made Grimm feel stigmatized for his gender identity.

“He was singled out from the pack, told you are different from other boys based on this biological gender criteria, which is a moving target,” Block said during his oral argument.

A decision on this case has not yet been reached. Judge James Wynn of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals explained during the oral hearing that the decision is made difficult by the lack of a legal definition of the word “sex.”

“What we are dealing with here is really a fundamental determination of, what does the term ‘sex’ mean in the context of Title XI? And does it go beyond the construction what’s in [Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins]?” Wynn said. 

A different case that was heard in October of last year by the Supreme Court -- Harris Funeral Homes v. E.E.O.C. -- questions the legal definition of “sex.” This possibly precedential case has also not received a decision.

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