4th Circuit Judge Pens Powerful Tribute to Gavin Grimm, Young Hero in Transgender Equality Movement

By Adam Polaski • April 7, 2017 • 4:19 pm

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit denied Gavin Grimm and the ACLU their request to expedite the renewed process of briefing and oral argument in Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, a case concerning equal treatment and dignity for transgender Americans.

The case had been scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court for oral argument in March, but following a move from President Trump that rescinded trans-affirming guidance for public schools, the case was sent back to the 4th Circuit for further consideration. The letter from Obama’s Departments of Justice and Education formed much of the foundation for the 4th Circuit’s previous ruling in favor of Gavin Grimm’s ability to use the boys’ restroom at school. The Supreme Court move to remand the case came just days after it heard powerful arguments in “friend-of-the-court” briefs from nearly 2,000 faith leaders, dozens of elected officials, many school administrators, and more than 100 transgender adults.

The 4th Circuit’s move today vacating their previous preliminary injunction, issued in June 2016, means that Gavin Grimm will graduate from high school in a few months without being fully recognized by his school as the boy that he is – despite having previously used the boys’ restroom for seven months and despite increasing national understanding immeasurably of what it means to be transgender. “G.G.’s banishment from the boys’ restroom becomes an enduring feature of his high school experience,” 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Andre Davis wrote today.

Judge Davis today penned a moving concurring opinion as a tribute to Gavin Grimm, contextualizing his role in the fight for equal treatment for all Americans. It’s well worth a full read – but here are some key excerpts from the document.

On the historic context for Gavin Grimm’s fight:

“Our country has a long and ignominious history of discriminating against our most vulnerable and powerless. We have an equally long history, however, of brave individuals—Dred Scott, Fred Korematsu, Linda Brown, Mildred and Richard Loving, Edie Windsor, and Jim Obergefell, to name just a few—who refused to accept quietly the injustices that were perpetuated against them. It is unsurprising, of course, that the burden of confronting and remedying injustice falls on the shoulders of the oppressed. These individuals looked to the federal courts to vindicate their claims to human dignity, but as the names listed above make clear, the judiciary’s response has been decidedly mixed. Today, G.G. adds his name to the list of plaintiffs whose struggle for justice has been delayed and rebuffed; as Dr. King reminded us, however, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” G.G.’s journey is delayed but not finished.”

On why this is bigger than bathrooms: 

“G.G.’s case is about much more than bathrooms. It’s about a boy asking his school to treat him just like any other boy. It’s about protecting the rights of transgender people in public spaces and not forcing them to exist on the margins. It’s about governmental validation of the existence and experiences of transgender people, as well as the simple recognition of their humanity. His case is part of a larger movement that is redefining and broadening the scope of civil and human rights so that they extend to a vulnerable group that has traditionally been unrecognized, unrepresented, and unprotected.”

On the path ahead:

“G.G.’s lawsuit also has demonstrated that some entities will not protect the rights of others unless compelled to do so. Today, hatred, intolerance, and discrimination persist — and are sometimes even promoted — but by challenging unjust policies rooted in invidious discrimination, G.G. takes his place among other modern-day human rights leaders who strive to ensure that, one day, equality will prevail, and that the core dignity of every one of our brothers and sisters is respected by lawmakers and others who wield power over their lives.”

Thank you, Gavin Grimm and the ACLU, for pushing forward in this vital and important case – and for continuing to push ahead even past Gavin’s graduation date.

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