The Supreme Court on Wednesday put a temporary halt to a federal judge’s ruling that a student who identifies as transgender must have access to either gender’s public school restroom.
“I am pleased the Supreme Court blocked this ruling before children return to school,” said Mat Staver, founder and chair of the legal group Liberty Counsel.
In a 5-3 decision, the Court put a stay on a federal court’s ruling that the Gloucester (Va.) County School Board must allow a student who was born a girl and identifies as a boy to use the boys’ bathroom at school. The stay will last until the Supreme Court either refuses to hear the case or hears and decides the case.
The student is protected under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity,” because of federal interpretations of the statute to include protections for sexual orientation, the Fourth Circuit Court ruled in April.
In the decision, the court cited Department of Education regulations that girls and boys bathrooms be “comparable” to each other, and the department’s Office for Civil Rights statement that “a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.”
Previously, a lower court had denied the student an injunction against the school board’s restroom policy. The circuit court remanded that decision and sent it back, and in June the district court judge ruled that the school district had to allow the student access to the men’s bathroom. The case will still be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Justice Stephen Breyer approved the stay of the ruling “as a courtesy,” since “four Justices have voted to grant the application” and “we are currently in recess, and that granting a stay will preserve the status quo” until the Court agrees to take or refuse the case.
According to court documents, the student in question, “G.G.” had received hormone therapy and a legal name change to a boy’s name. The student and the mother “told school officials that G.G. was a transgender boy.”
G.G. began using the boys’ bathroom until the county school board proposed that school bathrooms be restricted to separate biological genders and that transgender students have access to an independent private bathroom.
The student refused to use a private bathroom because doing so would “make him feel even more stigmatized . . . . Being required to use separate restrooms sets him apart from his peers, and serves as a daily reminder that the school views him as ‘different.’”
The U.S. Catholic Bishops have recently spoken about treatment of children identifying as transgender.
“Especially at a young age and in schools, it is important that our children understand the depth of God’s love for them and their intrinsic worth and beauty. Children should always be and feel safe and secure and know they are loved,” Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo and Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha stated on May 16.
Bishop Malone chairs the U.S. bishops’ family life and youth committee; Archbishop Lucas chairs the bishops’ Catholic education committee.
Nevertheless, federal agencies’ treatment of “‘a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex’ is deeply disturbing,” the bishops continued, citing Pope Francis’ words in Amoris Laetitia that “the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created.”
There have been “legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young students and parents,” the bishops added of policies that recognize students’ gender identity over their biological sex.
“As Pope Francis has recently indicated, ‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated’,” the bishops added in a Catholic News Agency report.