At the Grammy Awards Sunday night transgender actor and activist Laverne Cox took the opportunity while introducing Lady Gaga to tell America “Google Gavin Grimm” and “Hashtag I Stand With Gavin.”
Who is Gavin Grimm? That would be the Grimm of Grimm v. Gloucester, a case headed to the Supreme Court in March involving one southern Virginia school district’s refusal to accept Obama’s broad new transgender directives to public schools.
Obama’s administration claimed Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination means Gavin (a girl who identifies as a boy) gets to use the boys’ bathroom. This is the case I flagged in a previous Stream column as an important early marker of the new Trump administration’s willingness to roll back Obama’s lawless legacy that threatens not only the privacy of girls, but the rights of traditional religious schools and charities to refuse to hire gay married teachers or workers.
Trump Leaves Bathroom Debates to the Schools, as Promised
Trump’s acceptance of Obama’s executive order banning discrimination based on gender identity raised real concerns, especially as Trump never promised to push substantive religious liberty protections that conflict with LGBT protections.
Well, Jeff Sessions wasn’t installed as attorney general for more than 24 hours before taking steps to deliver on a key promise Trump did make: to leave the transgender bathroom issue to local schools to handle.
The case is Texas (et al) v. the United States. A federal judge had granted a nationwide injunction preventing the federal government from reinterpreting Title IX’s sex discrimination ban to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The Obama administration then asked the judge to narrow his injunction to only the dozen or so states who were parties to the suit. Oral arguments were scheduled for Valentine’s Day. But the Justice department just withdrew that request to narrow the injunction, mooting that part of the case; the oral arguments are cancelled.
The federal judge’s nationwide injunction stands for now as the Justice Department considers next steps. (Complicating the decision: The defendants in this case are not only the Justice Department, and the Education Department, both of which are under the direct control of the Trump administration, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which is now dominated by Obama appointees. The Trump administration could withdraw, leaving the EEOC as the lone defendant.)
Will Trump Withdraw Obama’s Absurd Guidance?
Both this case and Grimm v. Gloucester rest in part on the legality of the May 13, 2016 guidance letter the Obama administration sent to every public school in America warning them they may risk losing federal funds if they do not permit students who identify as transgender to use the bathroom and shower of their choice.
The Justice Department is not a direct party to this case, but the Obama administration did file an amicus brief supporting Grimm’s argument that a transgender person has a right to use the showers and bathrooms of his or her choice. Among the most absurd of many absurd arguments? The Obama administration claimed including gender “converts” under sex discrimination is like protecting religious converts against religious discrimination.
Look for the Trump administration to withdraw that brief, and write a new one defending the actual meaning of the law as passed in 1972, which clearly did not include broad new LGBT protections.
The next step is for the new Education secretary Betsy Devos to withdraw Obama’s guidelines on Title IX pronto.
Meanwhile on Day 2 of Jeff Session’s tenure as attorney general the verdict has to be: Trump delivered.