Trans Va. teen’s attorneys prepare for Supreme Court hearing

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As transgender teenager Gavin Grimm prepares to take his case to the Supreme Court later this month, several local groups answered questions from families Sunday night.

At a town hall discussion held at Diversity Richmond, audience members asked questions about the Trump administration’s rollback on guidelines that protect transgender children attending public schools.

A panel representing Side by Side (formerly ROSMY), the ACLU of Virginia, Equality Virginia, and the Nationz Foundation answered questions, breaking down complicated legal issues involving Title IX, explaining what the law says and how loved ones can support transgender youth in Virginia’s public schools.

Ted Lewis, executive director of Side by Side pointed out that all too often, bathroom policies take the focus, distracting from other ways schools can help make Trans students feel respected and accepted.

“Things like using the right name and pronoun with students, ensuring that students know they’re protected in the school from bullying, ensuring that they have access to a gay-straight alliance or other LGBTQ student group where they can meet and connect,” Lewis told 8News. “Some of those easy things that don’t cost a lot of money that can make a big difference.”

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17-year old Grimm has become the face of transgender students fighting to use the bathroom of their choice in public schools. On March 28, he will take his case to use the men’s room to the highest court in the land.

“This is a landmark case,” said attorney Gail Deady of the Virginia ACLU.  “It’s the first time the U.S. Supreme Court is going to be addressing transgender rights directly.”

Deady speaks with Grimm on a regular basis.

“Based on my conversations with him, I think Gavin is feeling very encouraged by the show of support, not just from the transgender community but from the country at large,” Deady said.

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In late February the White House rescinded federal Title IX guidelines for transgender students. The decision reversed an Obama administration directive that gave transgender students access to restrooms in line with their expressed gender identity, not their biological sex.

Deady pointed out that the rollback has only limited impact on her client because no new guideline have been given by the Trump administration and his case will revolve primarily around the requirements set forth by Title IX.

“(The Obama administration directives) were just guidelines to begin with. They were never a mandate or a new law. So schools still are obligated under Title IX and the Constitution to protect transgender students, and that means allowing transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity,” Deady said.

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Gavin Grimm

Anti-bullying safeguards for LGBTQ students are not affected by the White House action.

Don Blake runs the Virginia Christian Alliance, a conservative group that has been outspoken on issues of immigration, abortion and gender identity.

“You can change your clothes, change your hair, physically change your body, but you can’t change your chromosomes,” Blake said. Adding that he is happy to know the Trump White House will not enforce the Obama-era guidances on schools. “What the president is doing is putting it back to the way it was.”

Attorneys general from 18 states including Virginia have signed onto a brief in support of Grimm. The court brief signed last week argues that allowing transgender people to use bathrooms matching their gender identity creates no public safety or financial burdens.

The Supreme Court will hear Gavin’s case March 28.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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