Lawyers for a 17-year-old high school senior at the center of a high-profile case on the legal rights of transgender students asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to move quickly to hold a new hearing and reach a new decision in his case. They sought a ruling before he graduates from school on June 10.
The plea was filed at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit just two days after the Supreme Court returned the case of Gavin Grimm to that court for a new review. The Justices did so after federal policy on transgender students’ rights had shifted in the new Trump Administration, so the policy no longer supports Grimm’s legal claim.
Grimm, who attends school in the small Virginia town of Gloucester Courthouse, was assigned the gender of a girl at birth in 1999, but as a teenager began accepting the identity of a boy. He has obtained a revised birth certificate showing his gender as male.
The school board in Gloucester County has denied his request to use the boys’ restroom, leaving him the choice of a restroom in the nurse’s office or a single-person facility. He regards that choice as one that discriminates against him based on his gender identity.
The Fourth Circuit Court upheld his claim, leading the school board to take the case on to the Supreme Court. The Justices had agreed to rule on the case and had scheduled a hearing for March 28. However, the Court abandoned that plan after the Trump Administration notified the Justices of the change in policy, choosing instead to order the Fourth Circuit Court to review the case in view of that policy shift.
In the new filing by the student’s lawyers in the Fourth Circuit, they asked that both sides be told to file new briefs on the meaning of Title IX of the 1972 federal civil rights law, which forbids discrimination “on the basis of sex” in federally funded education programs.
The motion asked that the new briefs be filed on an expedited basis, and that the case be set for a hearing during the Fourth Circuit Court’s scheduled sitting, from May 9 to 11. That schedule, the lawyers said, “will enable the court to issue a ruling in time for Gavin to attend his own graduation with the dignity of being able to use the same restroom facilities as the rest of his peers.”
The filing noted that the school board is opposed to the motion. The Circuit Court, however, told the school board to file a response by March 14.
Although the Supreme Court had explicitly told the Fourth Circuit Court to take into account the new Trump Administration policy, the motion by Gavin’s lawyers made no mention of a possible request for the Administration to submit a brief in the case. The government is technically not a party in the case, but the Circuit Court does have the option of asking it to file its views, and seems likely to do so.
Gavin’s graduation in June will not necessarily bring his case to an end, because he has legal claims other than the meaning of Title IX.
(NOTE: The blog appreciates the heads-up reporting on the new motion by Ann Marimow of the Washington Post.)