Court backs choose-your-own-restroom policy

Transgenderism | Federal appeals court rules high school discriminated against transgender student with restroom policy
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 4/19/16, 04:55 pm

In a decision that could have far-reaching consequences for the debate over gender identity and public restrooms, a federal appeals court ruled today that a Virginia school district discriminated against a student by requiring the use of a girls-only or private restroom.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, a high-school student who is biologically female but identifies as a male. Gavin, the student’s legal name, has started hormone therapy but has not undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Gavin sued the Gloucester County School Board over its policy requiring students to use the restrooms that correspond to their biological sex. The board set the policy in 2014 after Gavin’s use of the boys’ restroom became public knowledge and parents expressed their concerns about students’ privacy. A lower court ruled the school’s provision of private restrooms for transgender students was a reasonable accommodation of their needs, but the appellate court disagreed.

“As a result of the board’s restroom policy, [the student] experiences daily psychological harm that puts him at risk for long-term psychological harm, and his avoidance of the restroom as a result of the board’s policy puts him at risk for developing a urinary tract infection as he has repeatedly in the past,” Senior Judge Andre Davis wrote in a concurring opinion.

The 4th Circuit includes Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, where a political battle has raged in recent weeks over a law called HB2 that protects public establishments from being forced to allow biological males and females to have access to restrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify. LGBT advocates have challenged HB2 as discriminatory in federal court, and today’s decision could set a precedent for that case—at least as it relates to restroom use in public schools.

The ruling also strengthens the arguments of transgender students who file Title IX discrimination claims against school districts over restroom use. The U.S. Department of Education ruled in 2014 that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions, also applies to cases of gender identity. 

The department has so far left the practical implications of that ruling ambiguous and dealt with school districts on a case-by-case basis. But the 4th Circuit’s opinion interpreted Title IX in such a way that anything less than allowing students to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify could be considered discriminatory. Though the court did not negate the need for single-sex restrooms in public schools, it said that a student’s sex can be defined as his or her gender identity.

In a dissent, Judge Paul Niemeyer noted the court’s audacity in redefining “sex” to mean gender identity: “This unprecedented holding overrules custom, culture, and the very demands inherent in human nature for privacy and safety, which the separation of such facilities is designed to protect. More particularly, it also misconstrues the clear language of Title IX and its regulations. And finally, it reaches an unworkable and illogical result.”

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  •  David Troup's picture
    David Troup
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    The Third Reich has morphed into the USA judicial system.  Prepare for imprisonment.  If enough Christians refuse to submit to this ungodly act, they may have to build concentration camps for us.  Maybe forcing the Gospel en masse into prisons would be a good thing.

  • HayneC
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    Who is protecting the dignity of the Christians that believe the other is sinning?

  • JDC
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    If I identify myself as a dog, do I have the right to pee on a hydrant?

  • psubrent
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    austinbeartux, Target seems to be taking this route with their recent corporate decision:http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/news/a37983/target-to-allow-transgender-people-to-use-bathroom-of-choice/ Apparently all one has to do is identify with the opposite gender and they are free to do as they wish...

  • Lizards88
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    I miss the old days were men were men and women were women, you would figure something so simple as male and female this country would be able to figure out.

  • Jesus is Worthy
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    Lord, we pray for Gavin and the other girls who are in the same situation as her. We also pray for the boys who want to be girls as well, "whose minds the god of this age has blinded." (2 Corinthians 4:4) Set them free from bondage to sin and death. You love them Lord. Please have mercy on them and on our Nation.

  • socialworker
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    And the locker room is even more of a conundrum.  Will she shower after gym class (which hardly any of us did anyway)?  Why is it so traumatizing to use a private bathroom?  I just don't get that.

  • hawaiicharles
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    At the risk of sounding overly snarky, does Gavin plan to stand in front of the urinal when she goes to pee in the boys' restroom?  If not, it seems to me that inside of a stall looks pretty much the same regardless of which room it's located in.  Having been a school-aged boy once, I would think the prospect of having a bunch of them gawk at her (or worse) when she enters the boys' restroom would be a lot more traumatizing than simply using the girls' room.  It's nothing short of mind-boggling that so many Americans have completely taken leave of their senses.

  •  austinbeartux's picture
    austinbeartux
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    What about people who think they're androgynous?  Does the Federal Appeals court think they have a right to choose any bathroom they want?  Lord help us.

  •  William Peck 1958's picture
    William Peck 1958
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    "The board's restroom policy [...] puts the student at risk for long-term psychological harm."
    Um, it's actually not the bathroom policy that's putting his psychological state of mind at risk now is it?

  • My Two Cents
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:22 pm

    I suppose the next logical step will be to remove all signs on bathrooms. Just say: Bathroom, and leave men/women off of it. Everyone just goes into whichever room feels right. Families could go together, and mothers don't have to send elementary aged sons into the men's room alone, hoping he knows to yell bloody murder if he gets assaulted. Remove urinals, of course. Private stalls. I want to know who's going to check birth certificates under these proposed bills. Sir/Ma'am, may I check your ID please? What a job that would be, to challenge someone's gender based on appearance. We live in a crazy world.

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