Saturday, October 29, 2016

QUEER QUOTE: SCOTUS Agrees To Hear Important Transgender Rights Case From Virginia

The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old transgender boy who (with the help of the ACLU) is suing the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia for the right to use the bathroom associated with his gender identity.

Today's Queer Quote is from the granting of certioari by SCOTUS in Grimm:
 (1) Whether courts should extend deference to an unpublished agency letter that, among other things, does not carry the force of law and was adopted in the context of the very dispute in which deference is sought; and (2) whether, with or without deference to the agency, the Department of Education's specific interpretation of Title IX and 34 C.F.R. § 106.33, which provides that a funding recipient providing sex-separated facilities must “generally treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity,” should be given effect.
SCOTUSblog describes the Grimm case in this way:
Although the controversy over the school board’s policy requiring students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that match the gender that they were assigned at birth instantly became the highest-profile case of the court’s term so far, the dispute actually centers on more technical (and, some would say, rather dry) legal issues. In this case, the district court ruled against G.G., relying on a 1975 regulation that allows schools to provide “separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex,” as long as those facilities are comparable to those provided to the opposite sex. But, in January 2015, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued an opinion letter stating that, if schools separate students in restrooms and locker rooms on the basis of their sex, a “school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” In light of the 2015 letter, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed and ruled for G.G. It relied on the Supreme Court’s 1997 decision in Auer v. Robbins, which held that courts generally should defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own regulation. 
In granting review today, the justices sidestepped the most prominent issue they had been asked to take on: whether they should overrule their decision in Auer, which has been the target of criticism by conservative lawyers and jurists. Instead, they agreed only to weigh in on two other, lower-profile questions presented in the school board’s petition: whether courts should defer to a letter, like the Department of Education opinion letter in this case, that was issued as part of the specific dispute before the court; and whether the Department of Education’s interpretation of the federal civil rights laws and the 1975 regulation as requiring schools to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity should be given effect. 
The school board’s case, as well as the others in which the justices granted review today, likely will be argued during the court’s February sitting, which begins on February 21.
Here at we will be  watching this case closely. The primary takeaway should be that although marriage equality is now the law of the land, the fight for full LGBT equality is clearly not over. And the United States Supreme Court will almost certainly play a role in accomplishing this.

Hat/tip to Kenneth in the 212

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