The Supreme Court upheld a decision to let trans students use the bathroom that matches their gender identity

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  • The Supreme Court upheld the Fourth Circuit of Appeal’s ruling to allow trans students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.
  • The Fourth Circuit said in 2020 that Title IX and the Equal Protection Act can protect trans students from discriminatory bathroom policies.
  • Only Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas said they would grant cert in the appeal.
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The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would uphold a previous court’s decision to allow trans students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Only two of nine justices said they would grant cert in the case: Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, arose in 2015 after a Virginia school prohibited Grimm, a transgender male student, from using the bathroom corresponding with his gender identity. Grimm sued the school board citing Title IX discrimination and the Equal Protection Clause, but the Eastern District of Virginia court dismissed the lawsuit.

The Fourth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals overruled the previous decision, noting that the lower court ignored guidance from the Department of Education that “a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” The appeals court also granted Grimm a preliminary injunction to let him use his school’s bathroom in June 2016.

The Supreme Court withdrew the injunction just two months later, but the case was ultimately remanded after Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reversed previous guidance from the DOE, leading the Supreme Court to vacate the case and the Fourth Circuit’s ruling due to the change in administration policy.

Due to the Supreme Court’s decision, Grimm’s case was reheard in the Eastern District of Virginia in 2019, several years after he had graduated high school. This time, however, the court ruled in favor of Grimm, and the decision was upheld once again by the Fourth Circuit who said that “it is time to move forward.”

In his public meeting with the Gloucester County School Board in 2015, Grimm pleaded with the board, saying that he’s “just a human. I’m just a boy.” Six years later, after the Supreme Court upheld his rights, he said “it’s over. We won.”

ACLU attorney Josh Block noted on Twitter that the Supreme Court denying cert is not a ruling in itself. The case will likely be used as precedent in similar cases in the 4th Circuit, which is also home to North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.

-Josh Block (@JoshABlock) June 28, 2021

2021 is only halfway over, but trans activists are taking the ruling as a win amidst a year where state legislatures passed a record amount of anti-trans legislation. Despite the Biden Administration’s push for greater LGBT acceptance, the US Senate has yet to pass the Equality Act which would grant greater protections to queer Americans.