WASHINGTON (BP) – The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked for now lower-court decisions requiring a Virginia school district to enable a female student who identifies as male to use the boys’ restroom.
The justices announced, Aug. 3, they had put on hold a June ruling by a federal court ordering the Gloucester County School Board to permit Gavin Grimm to use the male restroom while the case is settled in court. Grimm, 17, is a female biologically but considers herself a male.
The Supreme Court’s order, with five justices agreeing on the stay, means Grimm will not be able to use the boys’ restroom at school until the justices weigh in on the case. If the high court refuses to review the lower court opinion in the case, the hold will end immediately. If the justices accept the appeal, the stay will remain in force until they issue a ruling.
The order is the latest action in a battle being waged in schools regarding transgender rights – a debate that advocates for such rights have been winning in recent months.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down in April a federal judge’s decision by ruling the school board of the eastern Virginia county violated federal law by refusing to permit transgender students to use the restrooms of the gender with which they identify, regardless of their biological sex. In a 2-1 opinion, the Fourth Circuit panel said the ban on sex discrimination in the Title IX education amendments encompasses gender identity.
In May, the Obama administration issued a sweeping directive on transgender rights. Officials with the Departments of Education and Justice told public school districts, as well as colleges and universities, to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity. The guidance was not legally binding, but it implied noncompliance could result in the loss of federal aid.
The Gloucester County School Board requested the entire Fourth Circuit Court rehear its case, but the judges refused in May. In June, the federal court responded to the appeals panel with an order in favor of Grimm, and the school board asked the Supreme Court to block its enforcement.
Supporters of the school board and its policy welcomed the high court’s Aug. 3 order despite its temporary nature.
Rodney Autry, a Southern Baptist pastor in Gloucester County, said he is “heartened” by the Supreme Court’s action.
He hopes the result will be “sensible solutions which guarantee our school children are assured that awkward, embarrassing and potentially dangerous conditions are not imposed on them by judicial fiat,” Autry said in written comments for Baptist Press. “Transforming standards on such delicate matters without the direct input of parents and taxpayers is unconscionable.”
Autry, senior pastor of Union Baptist Church in Hayes, Va., commended the school board’s persistence and professionalism in the case.
“I trust that when the case is fully made before the [Supreme Court] for our Gloucester schools to remain safe zones sexually that wisdom will prevail among the justices and common-sense, civil protections will continue among school-age children who have no vote in their own welfare,” said Autry, who signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the school board.