What Does the Supreme Court’s Order in the Trans Discrimination Case Mean?

We got some bad news yesterday: the Supreme Court has sent G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, a case about trans students’ rights, back down to the appellate court for reconsideration. The case was scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 28. But now the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will revisit their earlier decision, in which they ruled in favor of the plaintiff, transgender boy Gavin Grimm. The Fourth Circuit judges must determine whether their opinion needs to change given the Trump administration’s decision to take back earlier Department of Education guidance affirming protections for trans students under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

It doesn’t.

First, some background: The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU on behalf of Virginia student Gavin Grimm, who was excluded from the boys’ restroom at school because he is trans. The ACLU argued that this discrimination violated the federal civil rights law Title IX. In an amicus brief filed last week, we agreed.

The Fourth Circuit’s opinion in favor of Gavin rested in part on the fact that the Department of Education had released a letter to schools explaining their long-standing interpretation of Title IX’s protections for trans students. As the guidance explained, schools must respect students’ gender identities, call them by the correct pronouns and names, prevent and address anti-trans discrimination, and let them use sex-segregated spaces like restrooms that correspond to their gender identities.

That letter was awesome because it clarified the law for schools that hadn’t kept up. But here’s the thing: the guidance didn’t make new law. Well before the guidance, courts had held that anti-trans discrimination is a form of sex stereotyping prohibited by laws like Title IX.
Today’s order is a setback because trans students need the Court to make clear to all schools once and for all that Title IX protects them from discrimination – and to do so soon. But the Court’s decision to delay an opinion doesn’t change the law. And we’ll keep fighting for a world where gender never poses an obstacle to a young person’s opportunity to learn and thrive.