Supreme Court blocks transgender bathroom ruling

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Two battling views on the transgender bathroom rules

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to put on hold a federal judge's order in the growing controversy over restrictions on the use of bathrooms by transgender students.

The school board in Gloucester County, Virginia, is challenging a decision by a federal appeals court that ruled it must allow a student, who was born a girl but now identifies as male, to use the boys' bathroom during the coming school year.

While the board prepares to appeal the decision, it asked the Supreme Court to block the lower court order. And on Wednesday, the justices granted that request in a brief order.

Related: Va. Appeals Court Won't Re-Hear Transgender Bathroom Access Case

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented and said they would not have put the ruling on hold.

Wednesday's order means the student, Gavin Grimm, will not be able to use the restroom of his choice when school starts.

PHOTOS: Supreme Court justices

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Supreme Court Justices

Anthony Kennedy

Born: 1936

Joined Supreme Court: 1988

Appointed by: Ronald Reagan

Votes: Conservative/Center

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy listens to opening statements during a Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Clarence Thomas

Born: 1948

Joined Supreme Court: 1991

Appointed by: George H.W. Bush

Votes: Conservative

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas testifies during a hearing before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee April 15, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Born: 1933

Joined Supreme Court: 1993

Appointed by: Bill Clinton 

Votes: Liberal

In this July 31, 2014 file photo, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is seen in her chambers in at the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Stephen Breyer

Born: 1938

Joined Supreme Court: 1994

Appointed by: Bill Clinton

Votes: Liberal/Center

United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks at the Harvard University Institute of Politics John F. Kennedy School of Government John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on November 6, 2015 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

Samuel Alito

Born: 1950

Joined Supreme Court: 2006

Appointed by: George W. Bush

Votes: Conservative

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito speaks during the Georgetown University Law Center's third annual Dean's Lecture to the Graduating Class in the Hart Auditorium in McDonough Hall February 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

John Roberts, Chief Justice

Born: 1955

Joined Supreme Court: 2005

Appointed by: George W. Bush

Votes: Conservative

US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is followed by Elena Kagan on her way to take the Judicial Oath to become the 112th US Supreme Court justice, in Washington on August 7, 2010. (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Sonia Sotomayor

Born: 1954

Joined Supreme Court: 2009

Appointed by: Barack Obama

Votes: Liberal

Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States Sonia Sotomayor discusses her book 'My Beloved World' presented in association with Books and Books at Bank United Center on February 1, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Vallery Jean/FilmMagic)

Elena Kagan

Born: 1960

Joined Supreme Court: 2010

Appointed by: Barack Obama

Votes: Liberal

Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Elena Kagan speaks onstage at the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit on October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for FORTUNE)
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In the first such decision of its kind, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in April that refusing to allow students to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity would violate a federal law known as Title IX that bans sex discrimination by schools receiving federal funds.

The ruling cited an Education Department letter that said "a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity." The appeals court found that to be a reasonable interpretation of Title IX.

That ruling was a victory for Grimm, a 17-year-old high school student in rural Virginia near the Chesapeake Bay, Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, has undergone hormone therapy and has legally changed his name.

Related: Appeals court hears trans student's challenge to school's bathroom policy

The Obama administration has cited the ruling in its transgender lawsuit against North Carolina and in a letter to advising the nation's schools on transgender policy.

In urging the Supreme Court to block the effect of the ruling, the school board said it was based on a single Education Department letter that did not have the legal force of a full-blown regulation. And it argued that the rights of parents were put in jeopardy.

"Depriving parents of any say over whether their children should be exposed to members of the opposite biological sex, possibly in a state of full or complete undress in intimate settings, deprives them of their right to direct the education and upbringing of their children," the board's lawyers said.

Related: 11 States Sue Obama Administration Over Transgender Bathroom Directive

But lawyers for Grimm said the appeals court order "does not apply to locker rooms, showers or other situations in which students may be in a state of full or complete undress, and it certainly does not extend to every school district in the Fourth Circuit or the entire Nation."

The school district would suffer no permanent harm, they said, if Grimm is allowed to use the boys' restroom while the Supreme Court considers whether to take up the larger issue.

The school board has said it will ask the Supreme Court in late August to overturn the lower court decision. The court will not act on that request until October at the earliest.

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