Transgender Rights Remain in Limbo: Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear what has been considered a major case regarding transgender rights in schools.
The court’s decision on Monday comes in light of the new administration’s reversal of an Obama-era guidance that stated public schools must allow transgender students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity rather than their biological sex.
Transgender students are not legally protected under federal anti-discrimination laws. “States rights” to supersede gender protections.
According to the Justice Department, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, so former President Barack Obama’s guidance was not valid. The case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student from Virginia, relied in part on Obama’s guidance.
The case will return to the lower courts but will likely return to the Supreme Court in the future.
Joshua Block, Grimm’s lead senior counsel and senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) LGBT Project, called the decision “a detour, not the end of the road.”
“While we’re disappointed that the Supreme Court will not be hearing Gavin’s case this term, the overwhelming level of support shown for Gavin and trans students by people across the country throughout this process shows that the American people have already moved in the right direction and that the rights of trans people cannot be ignored,” Block said.
Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said, “To be clear, transgender students are covered by Title IX and are entitled to the same rights and protections as every other student. But while this plays out in our courts, we are deeply concerned about the consequences this could have for transgender students, who may not be aware of their rights or be subject to increased discrimination by others who feel emboldened by the Trump Administration’s recent actions.”
Grimm told MSNBC that despite the ruling, he’s happy even if he has made a small difference in the transgender community.
“I definitely think I’ve been seeing a real-world, very positive impact with what I’m doing and with just the conversation in general, and I can’t be more overjoyed to hear that,” he said. “I think just one changed heart is totally worth it.”
The transgender community, as well as the LGBT community in general, statistically face more challenges when it comes to mental health than the general population. Some research suggests that this could be linked to things like being barred from certain bathrooms.
A 2016 article in Taylor & Francis Online’s Journal of Homosexuality, “Transgender Adults’ Access to College Bathrooms and Housing and the Relationship to Suicidality,” found a correlation between transgender suicide rates at colleges and “climate factors” that include bathroom access and issues regarding gender housing:
“An established body of literature indicates that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s health and wellbeing is connected to internalized stigma, expected prejudice, and interpersonal violence and discrimination. Transgender people have elevated rates of suicide ideation and attempts compared to the general population, and recent research suggests that transgender college students are more likely to have experienced self-injury, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts compared to cisgender (non-transgender) students.”
According to the Youth Suicide Prevention Center, “More than 30% of LGBTQ youth report at least one suicide within the last year. Almost 50% of transgender youth have seriously thought about suicide, and 25% reported that they have made a suicide attempt.”
“Since the moment he stepped foot in the Oval Office, President Trump has attacked equality.”
The Supreme Court is still currently short one justice. In late January, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Judge Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch, 49, is the youngest nominee the court has seen in many years. He could sit on the bench for nearly half a century, making rulings that last even longer.
The addition of Gorsuch could signal a challenge for Grimm if his case does return to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch is a known conservative and a believer in originalism, meaning the Constitution should be interpreted the way it was intended at the time it was written.
Hebelievesjudges should be “focusing backward” when interpreting and applying the law, “looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.”
In 2015 Gorsuch joined a decision stating that a transgender woman’s constitutional rights were not in violation when she was rejected hormone therapy while in prison.