4th Circuit Lifts Transgender Bathroom Injunction; Landmark Case Ends Without Ruling

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 10, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When Gavin Grimm sued the Gloucester County School District, he was seeking an order that allowed him to use the boy's restroom at his school in accordance with his gender identity. Although he won that order in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last year, the order was vacated last week following a quick and inconclusive visit to the Supreme Court.

Thus Grimm's case ends without a definitive ruling on transgender bathroom access, and he will be denied access to the boy's bathroom for the rest of his high school career. But two judges from the Fourth Circuit took the opportunity to praise Grimm's courage and place his legal struggle alongside those or other famous civil rights litigants. "G.G. adds his name to the list of plaintiffs whose struggle for justice has been delayed and rebuffed," wrote Judge Andre Davis. "[A]s Dr. King reminded us, however, 'the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.' G.G.'s journey is delayed but not finished."

A Simple Recognition of Humanity

Judge Davis was concurring with the court's decision to vacate its earlier injunction forcing Grimm's school to provide him access to the boy's restroom. After the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance directing schools to allow students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity, the Supreme Court kicked the case back down to the Fourth Circuit and Grimm chose to withdraw from litigation.

Although Grimm lost this legal fight, Judge Davis and Judge Henry Floyd lamented the lost opportunity to do justice:

G.G.'s case is about much more than bathrooms. It's about a boy asking his school to treat him just like any other boy. It's about protecting the rights of transgender people in public spaces and not forcing them to exist on the margins. It's about governmental validation of the existence and experiences of transgender people, as well as the simple recognition of their humanity. His case is part of a larger movement that is redefining and broadening the scope of civil and human rights so that they extend to a vulnerable group that has traditionally been unrecognized, unrepresented, and unprotected.

Equality Will Prevail

While praising Grimm's courage in taking the fight as far as he had, the judges also criticized the institutions that pushed him to this point:

G.G.'s lawsuit also has demonstrated that some entities will not protect the rights of others unless compelled to do so. Today, hatred, intolerance, and discrimination persist -- and are sometimes even promoted -- but by challenging unjust policies rooted in invidious discrimination, G.G. takes his place among other modern-day human rights leaders who strive to ensure that, one day, equality will prevail, and that the core dignity of every one of our brothers and sisters is respected by lawmakers and others who wield power over their lives.

Grimm's likely won't be the last court battle over transgender rights -- perhaps the next case will ask the right questions from the courts, and the courts will deliver a definitive answer.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard