Attorney General James Fights Transgender Discrimination

Attorney General James Fights Transgender Discrimination

New York Leads Coalition of 23 Attorneys General Fighting to Ensure
Transgender Students Can Use Restrooms in Line with Their Gender Identity

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of 23 attorneys general fighting to support transgender rights in an antidiscrimination lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia. Gavin Grimm, a former student at Gloucester High School, sued the local school board in 2015 — when he was still a student — for discrimination that banned him from using the common male restrooms at his high school. The coalition filed an amicus brief in the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of Grimm in the case of Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board.  

“Trans’ rights are human rights, and we will fight for equal protection under the law for every community,” said Attorney General James. “No individual should ever fear discrimination, especially at their school, but the Gloucester County School Board repeatedly violated Gavin Grimm’s rights and used his gender identity against him. This is about more than bathroom use, but about ensuring that transgender students are treated as equals, and transgender individuals are not discriminated against.”

Grimm not only sued to challenge the Gloucester County School Board’s policy of banning him from using the common male restrooms at his high school, but also the board’s refusal to update his educational records to correspond with his updated birth certificate that reflects his male gender. The federal district court in Virginia ruled in Grimm’s favor in August 2019, finding that the school board’s actions discriminated against Grimm on the basis of his sex in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The coalition of attorneys general — led by Attorney General James and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson — argue, first and foremost, that transgender individuals have the right “to live with dignity, be free from discrimination, and have equal access to education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and other necessities of life.” They go on to argue that policies that prevent transgender individuals from using gender-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity cause stigma, isolation, and exclusion. Additionally, the brief highlights how policies that allow students and members of the public to use gender-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity promote safe and inclusive communities, workplaces, and schools, and benefit the people of the states without harming personal privacy or safety interests, or without incurring any substantial costs.

Finally, the brief highlights that the school board’s restroom policy preventing transgender people from using common restrooms consistent with their gender identity and its refusal to update Grimm’s school records do nothing to further legitimate governmental interests and only serve to stigmatize transgender persons in violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

Nearly 1.5 million people in the United States — including approximately 150,000 teenagers — currently identify as transgender.

In March 2017, the Office of the New York Attorney General led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Grimm, before the Court remanded the case for further proceedings in which Grimm prevailed.

Joining Attorney General James and Attorney General Ferguson in filing the brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

The amicus brief was prepared by Assistant Solicitor General Linda Fang, Assistant Deputy Solicitor General Andrew W. Amend, and Deputy Solicitor General Anisha S. Dasgupta. The Division of Appeals and Opinions is overseen by Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.