The US Supreme Court on Friday agreed for the first time to rule on transgender rights in a case in which a Virginia public school district is fighting to prevent a female-born transgender high school student from using the boys’ bathroom.
The justices agreed to hear the Gloucester County School Board’s appeal of a lower court’s April 19 ruling that transgender students are protected under US laws barring sex-based discrimination. The case involves a 17-year-old transgender student named Gavin Grimm, who identifies as male and sued to win the right to use the school’s boys’ bathroom.
The case, due to be argued and decided before the end of June, will be one of the biggest of the court’s term.
The court remains one justice short following the February death of Antonin Scalia, which left it with four conservatives and four liberals. That raises the possibility of a 4-4 ruling that would leave in place the decision favoring Grimm by the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A 4-4 ruling would set no nationwide legal precedent.
The Supreme Court has not directly ruled on transgender rights before. But in 1994 the court did rule in favor of a male-born transgender prison inmate identifying as a woman who was held with male prisoners and said she was beaten and raped by another inmate.