Federal appeals court won't reconsider ruling in favor of Virginia transgender teen

RICHMOND, Va. -- The debate over whether transgender students should be able to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal appeals court refused Tuesday to reconsider a three-judge panel's ruling on the matter.

The Gloucester County School Board had asked for a review by the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a three-judge panel said in a 2-1 decision last month that a Virginia high school discriminated against a transgender teen by forbidding him from using the boy's restroom.

In his dissent of Tuesday's decision denying the school board's request for full-court review, Judge Paul V. Niemeyer urged the school board to ask the high court to hear the case, saying the "momentous nature" of the topic "deserves an open road to the Supreme Court."

"Bodily privacy is historically one of the most basic elements of human dignity and individual freedom. And forcing a person of one biological sex to be exposed to persons of the opposite biological sex profoundly offends this dignity and freedom," Niemeyer wrote.

David Patrick Corrigan, an attorney for the school board, did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Tuesday.

The case brought by student Gavin Grimm has been closely watched since North Carolina enacted a law last month that bans transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. Several dueling cases over the law are pending in federal courts in North Carolina.

Grimm, who is female but identifies as male, was allowed to use the boys' restrooms at the school for several weeks in 2014. But after some parents complained, the school board adopted a policy requiring students to use either the restroom that corresponds with their biological gender or a private, single-stall restroom.

"Now that the Fourth Circuit's decision is final, I hope my school board will finally do the right thing and let me go back to using the boys' restroom again," Grimm said in a statement. "Transgender kids should not have to sue their own school boards just for the ability to use the same restrooms as everyone else."

The decision bolsters legal arguments being made against North Carolina's House Bill 2, which prohibits transgender people, including public school students, from using public single-sex facilities of the gender they identify with, rather than their biological sex.

"This decision further backs up what we and others have said about HB2 from the moment it was introduced: it is illegal, discriminatory, and threatens the wellbeing and safety of transgender students," said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina. "It's time for Governor McCrory and the legislature to end their harmful and mean-spirited campaign to bully transgender students, acknowledge that HB2 violates federal law, and repeal this discriminatory measure once and for all."

Rick Glazier of the North Carolina Justice Center hailed the decision.

"HB2 is not only on the wrong side of history; it is also on the wrong side of the law," Glazier said. "Continuing efforts to defend it and all of its discriminatory provisions should cease and the bill should be repealed before further harm is done to the state, our citizens, and reputation, all of whom have suffered damage enough."

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