A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Calif., Sept. 30, 2014.
Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Va. appeals court won’t re-hear transgender bathroom access case


A federal appeals court Tuesday declined to re-hear a case involving a Virginia transgender student, a victory for the student and advocates of transgender rights.

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled in April that public schools must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.

It was the first such decision of its kind, and the Justice Department has cited the ruling in its transgender lawsuit against North Carolina, which is part of the Fourth Circuit.

The decision was a victory for a Virginia high school student, Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, has undergone hormone therapy, and has legally changed his name.

The school board vowed to appeal and asked the full Fourth Circuit to take the case. But Tuesday in an unsigned order, the court declined.

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One judge, Paul Niemeyer, dissented.

“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.

“Somehow, all of this is lost in the current Administration’s service of the politically correct acceptance of gender identification as the meaning of ‘sex’,” he wrote.

The school board could now ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case. It’s unlikely the court would act on that request before its term ends in June.

It’s doubtful the justices would take the case unless a split develops among the appeals courts. The Supreme Court would be reluctant to dive quickly into such an issue.

The school board, in Gloucester, a rural part of Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay, said Grimm could use a unisex bathroom, but he said that only worsened his anguish of being transgender. Barred from using the boys’ restroom, he avoided using the restrooms at the school entirely and developed urinary tract infections, according to court documents.

The school board forced the high school to stop accommodating him after angry parents spoke out at two community meetings. One person called him a “freak,” and several repeatedly referred to him as a girl or young lady.

This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.