Gavin Grimm, a 16-year-old who was designated as female but who identifies as male, won in an appeals court on Tuesday after the court ruled a lower court should have deferred to a federal government interpretation of Title IX. Photo courtesy of Gavin Grimm/Facebook
RICHMOND, Va., April 20 (UPI) -- A federal court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a Virginia transgender student who sued his school over restroom access as the debate following North Carolina's perceived anti-LGBT law continues.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled 2-1 that a lower court should have deferred to the federal government's interpretation that Title IX protects transgender students. Gavin Grimm, a 16-year-old who was born female but identifies as male, sued his Gloucester County school after the school determined Grimm should not be allowed to use the boys bathroom.
The school decided that boys and girls bathrooms were limited to "corresponding biological genders" before later creating a unisex bathroom Grimm could use. Grimm later sued, arguing the school's policy violated his rights under Title IX -- an argument the appeals court supported.
"I feel so relieved and vindicated by the court's ruling," Grimm said in a statement. "Today's decision gives me hope that my fight will help other kids avoid discriminatory treatment at school."
Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 states that: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
A 2015 interpretation of Title IX by the Department of Education said that when a school acts to treat students differently on the basis of sex, schools "generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity."
LGBT advocates argue the ruling by the court applies to North Carolina, where the HB2 Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act was enacted in March limiting the rights of transgender people in the state.
The North Carolina law blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination measures to protect gay and transgender people. The law requires government-controlled facilities, including schools, to assign bathrooms and locker rooms to a single sex, while seeking to prevent those who do not match that biological sex from using the facilities. The law has been widely condemned for seemingly specifically targeting the transgender community.
"Our expectation is that the North Carolina schools reverse course immediately, as in tomorrow," Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign LGBT rights group, told The New York Times on Tuesday.
The North Carolina law has generated a backlash of companies and entertainers refusing to do business within the state citing the law's discriminatory nature.