The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of Gavin Grimm, 16, a female teen who identifies as a transgender boy. Grimm is suing Virginia’s Gloucester County School Board, arguing that its policy requiring students to use sex-segregated spaces based on their sex (or “gender-neutral” single-person facilities) is a violation of Title IX of the US Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX bans discrimination based on sex at schools that receive federal funding.
According to the opinion issued by the Fourth Circuit Court, “Because we conclude the district court did not accord appropriate deference to the relevant Department of Education regulations, we reverse its dismissal of G.G.’s Title IX claim.” G.G. alleges that women and girls in sex-segregated facilities “react negatively because they perceive G.G. to be a boy” and that using the girls’ restroom would cause “severe psychological distress.”
Circuit Judge Henry Floyd writes the majority opinion, stating, “The Department’s interpretation resolves ambiguity by providing that in the case of a transgender individual using a sex-segregated facility, the individual’s sex as male or female is to be generally determined by reference to the student’s gender identity.” This opinion appears to rest on the idea that Title IX is ambiguous in reference to the definition of “sex,” and that the Department of Education knows how to interpret its own regulations.
In his dissent, Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer writes “Strikingly, the majority now reverses the district court’s ruling, without any supporting case law, and concludes that when Title IX and its regulations provide for separate living facilities, restrooms, locker rooms, and shower facilities on the basis of sex, the statue’s and regulations’ use of the term ‘sex’ means a person’s gender identity, not the person’s biological status as male or female.”
The case will now return to the district court for further litigation.