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A rite of passage for “G.G.” — now Gavin Grimm

May 25, 2017 by Lyle Denniston

 

Gavin Grimm, the Virginia youth who has been praised by federal judges for his maturity in pursuing his legal claims as a transgender boy, has now officially become the master of his case.  He reached age 18 earlier this month, so two federal courts have now changed his ongoing case title.  Now it is Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board.

For the past two years, as his case moved through the federal courts, only his initials were in the case caption.  As a minor then, he could not sue personally, but sued as “G.G., by his next friend and mother, Deirdre Grimm.”  That was the way it was titled as it went from trial court to the U.S. Court of Appeals, appearing twice in each court, and to the Supreme Court once.

The case is now back in the Fourth Circuit Circuit for the third time, under a Supreme Court order to consider anew Gavin’s claim that he has a right to be treated legally in using restrooms at school that match his gender identity — assigned female gender at birth, but now identifying as a male.   He has been denied that access by school board policy.  The case went back to the Circuit Court to consider the impact of a switch in sides by the Trump Administration from where the government had stood during the Obama Administration.

Obama lawyers agreed with the claim of the youth and his mother that a federal law that requires equality of the sexes in education programs that receive federal funds (Title IX) also requires equality based on “gender identity.”  The Circuit Court previously ruled in the youth’s favor, without giving its own view on what Title IX, simply deferring to the government’s position.

After Trump Justice Department lawyers told the Supreme Court that they had switched position, the case returned to the Circuit Court, with the specific task now for that court to make its own, direct interpretation of the meaning of Title IX’s protection against discrimination “based on sex.”

The briefing on that issue will be completed on June 2 (eight days before Gavin graduates from his high school), but there will not be a hearing until at least mid-September.  The Circuit Court does not hold hearings after early May until the Fall.  A final decision is thus months away.

The fact that he will have graduated before his case is decided does not mean the end of his claim.  He is seeking money damages if he ultimately wins, and he also wants the opportunity to use the school restroom matching his gender identity when he returns for alumni and other school events.

After reaching his 18th birthday, Gavin’s lawyers asked the courts to change the title of his case, and they did so promptly.   (His exact birthday is not revealed in court papers, under a federal court privacy rule.)

It seems likely that, once the Circuit Court has ruled, the case could return to the Supreme Court.  Transgender rights cases are developing all across the nation.

Legendary journalist Lyle Denniston is Constitution Daily’s Supreme Court correspondent. Denniston has written for us as a contributor since June 2011 and has covered the Supreme Court since 1958. His work also appears on lyldenlawnews.com, where this story first appeared.

 

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