Appeals court rules on transgender bathrooms in schools case

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Appeals Court Sides With Transgender Student in Virginia Bathroom Case

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that public schools must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity, the first such decision of its kind.

The ruling is a victory for a Virginia high school student, Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, has undergone hormone therapy, and has legally changed his name.

School officials were supportive and allowed him to use the boys' restrooms, but the school board later barred the school from making that accommodation.

Related: Transgender Bathroom Bill Fails in Tennessee Legislature

On Tuesday, by a 2-1 vote, a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reversed a lower court decision that had been in favor of the school board.

"Tuesday's ruling says quite clearly that forcing transgender students to use the wrong restroom, one that doesn't accord with their gender identity, is sex discrimination," said the ACLU's James Esseks.

Photos from Grimm's case:

6 PHOTOS
Transgender student's battle divides rural Virginia town
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Appeals court rules on transgender bathrooms in schools case
This Tuesday Aug. 25, 2015 photo shows Gavin Grimm leans on a post on his front porch during an interview at his home in Gloucester, Va. Grimm is a transgender student whose demand to use the boys' restrooms has divided the community and prompted a lawsuit. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
This Tuesday Aug. 25, 2015 photo shows Gavin Grimm as he gestures during an interview at his home in Gloucester, Va. Grimm is a transgender student whose demand to use the boys' restrooms has divided the community and prompted a lawsuit. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
This Tuesday Aug. 25, 2015 photo shows the front sign of the Gloucester County High school in Gloucester, Va. Gavin Grimm a transgender student at the school whose demand to use the boys' restrooms has divided the community and prompted a lawsuit. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
This Tuesday Aug. 25, 2015 photo shows Gavin Grimm speaks during an interview at his home in Gloucester, Va. Grimm is a transgender student whose demand to use the boys' restrooms has divided the community and prompted a lawsuit. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
This Tuesday Aug. 25, 2015 photo shows Gavin Grimm poses on his front porch during an interview at his home in Gloucester, Va. Grimm is a transgender student whose demand to use the boys' restrooms has divided the community and prompted a lawsuit. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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The decision is binding on the five states of the Fourth Circuit -- Maryland, North and South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The court based its decision on a regulation issued by the Department of Education a year ago, interpreting the requirements of a federal law known as Title IX, which prohibits schools that receive federal funds from engaging in sex discrimination.

"A school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity," the federal regulation said. The appeals court ruled Tuesday that the rule is a reasonable interpretation of Title IX.

The school board, in Gloucester, a rural part of Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay, said Grimm could use a unisex bathroom, but he said it only worsened his anguish of being transgender. Barred from using the boys' restroom, he avoided using the restrooms at the school entirely and developed urinary tract infections, according to court documents.

Related: 'Don't vote for hate': Transgender teen asks to meet governor over 'bathroom bill'

The school board forced the high school to stop accommodating him after angry parents spoke out at two community meetings. One person called him a "freak," and several repeatedly referred to him as a girl or young lady.

Policies requiring schools to permit transgender students to use the bathrooms that conform to their gender identity have been enacted in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington.

But some states are taking a contrary position. North Carolina's legislature passed a law, signed by the governor last month, requiring transgender people to use the bathroom that correspondents to the sex they were born with. A similar measure was vetoed by South Dakota's governor.

See transgender bathroom law protests in North Carolina:

17 PHOTOS
North Carolina transgender bathroom law, protests, LGBT rights
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Appeals court rules on transgender bathrooms in schools case
In this photo taken Thursday, May 12, 2016, signage is seen outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. North Carolina is in a legal battle over a state law that requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate. The ADA-compliant bathroom signs were designed by artist Peregrine Honig. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Opponents of House Bill 2 protest across the street from the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 11, 2016 during a rally in support of the law that blocks rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
A police officer confronts a lady holding a sign at the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 11, 2016, during a rally in support of a law that blocks rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
DURHAM, NC - MAY 10: The 'We Are Not This' slogan is posted at the entrances to Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina. Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 (HB2) that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Supporters gather at the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 11, 2016, in support of House Bill 2, a law that blocks rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Opponents of House Bill 2 protest across the street from the State Capitol Building in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 11, 2016 during a rally in support of the law that blocks rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Two protesters hold up signs against passage of legislation in North Carolina, which limits the bathroom options for transgender people, during a rally in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 31, 2016. The rally drew around 100 people at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. (AP Photos/Skip Foreman)
Demonstrators protesting passage of legislation limiting bathroom access for transgender people stand in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 31, 2016. Approximately 100 people gathered for the rally, many chanting and carrying signs. (AP Photos/Skip Foreman)
FILE - In this March 30, 2016 file photo, Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Chad Griffin, center, speaks at a news conference at the old state Capitol Building in Raleigh, N.C. Griffin was among several LGBT leaders who headed to the state to join in protests and plot strategy for trying to overturn a new law limiting bathroom options for transgender people. Stung by setbacks related to their access to public restrooms, transgender Americans are taking steps to play a more prominent and vocal role in a nationwide campaign to curtail discrimination against them. (AP Photo/Gary Robertson, File)
People protest outside the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, March 24, 2016. North Carolina legislators decided to rein in local governments by approving a bill Wednesday that prevents cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory later signed the legislation, which dealt a blow to the LGBT movement after success with protections in cities across the country. (AP Photo/Emery P. Dalesio)
People protest outside the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, March 24, 2016. North Carolina legislators decided to rein in local governments by approving a bill Wednesday that prevents cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory later signed the legislation, which dealt a blow to the LGBT movement after success with protections in cities across the country. (AP Photo/Emery P. Dalesio)
North Carolina lawmakers gather on the House floor for a special session Wednesday, March 23, 2016 in Raleigh, N.C. to consider stopping a new Charlotte ordinance set to take effect April 1 that gives protections to transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
This March 10, 2015 photo shows a PayPal sign outside of the main entrance to an office building in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Elaine Martin, right, listens as Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, speaks during a press conference to announce filing of federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina's HB 2 law at the LGBT Center of Raleigh on Monday, March 28, 2016. Several different advocacy groups and some of the lead plaintiffs spoke at the event. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
Joaquin Carcano, center, the lead plaintiff in the case, speaks during a press conference to announce filing of federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina's HB 2 law at the LGBT Center of Raleigh on Monday, March 28, 2016. Several different advocacy groups and some of the lead plaintiffs spoke at the event. Joaquin was born a woman and is now a man. Simone Bell with Lambda Law is at left; Chris Brook with the ACLU is at right. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
TO GO AFP STORY BY BRIGITTE DUSSEAU - Transgender delegates Jamie Shier (L) and Janice Covington pose for photographs at the Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4, 2012. The Democratic National Convention Committee announced Wednesday that US President Barack Obama would move his acceptance speech from the outdoor Bank of America Stadium to the indoor Time Warner Cable Arena due to predictions of thunderstorms. AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read BRIGITTE DUSSEAU/AFP/GettyImages)
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Tuesday's decision presumably blunts part of the force of the North Carolina law by prohibiting enforcement of the bathroom restriction in public schools.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory told reporters he had received word of the ruling in the Virginia case and is assessing how his state should respond.

"It's the federal government, very similar to the Charlotte government, forcing something...brand new standards that we've never seen before," he said on Tuesday. "However, as governor I will uphold my oath of office and respect these court rulings and make sure these court rulings are abided to."




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