• February 27, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Steve Sanders, Associate Professor of Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

    Donald Trump last week rescinded the Obama administration’s guidance to schools concerning their obligations to transgender students. This change in federal policy now requires the Supreme Court to decide whether and how to deal with its first major transgender rights case, which involves a transgender Virginia high school boy, Gavin Grimm.   

    We should hope that the Court decides to abstain and to dismiss the case as improvidently granted. That outcome would preserve Grimm’s victory in the lower court and avoid the potentially damaging results of the justices entering this fray too soon. Gavin Grimm’s achievement is too important – yet too fragile – to risk it becoming a vehicle for making bad law that could harm large numbers of transgender students now and in the future. 

    Unlike the four major gay/lesbian rights victories the Court handed down between 1996 and 2015, culminating in nationwide marriage equality, this case, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., is not about grand constitutional principles like equality and liberty. The Trump administration’s action removed the primary issue in the case, which was one of administrative law: whether lower courts should have deferred to the Obama administration’s view that Title IX, the federal statute that was originally enacted to afford women equal opportunity in education, requires schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identity rather than their biological sex. 

    With the administrative law question now moot, the Court could still decide the case as a matter of statutory interpretation: that is, regardless of the executive branch’s shifting policy views, how should Title IX apply to transgender students’ ability to use sex-segregated facilities? But by asking the parties for their views on how to proceed, the Court last week signaled it may at least be thinking about dismissing the case.

    The Court should do so. Grimm won in the Fourth Circuit, but his lawyers from the ACLU opposed certiorari and argued that it is too soon for the Supreme Court to authoritatively settle the Title IX question one way or the other. As other courts of appeals consider similar cases, Grimm’s attorneys wrote, those courts “will produce a consensus or a circuit split. In either event, the issue would benefit from further exploration in the lower courts.”

    There is a strong body of case law in the lower federal courts that a statute passed to combat sex discrimination can also be used to combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity. But almost all these cases involved adults in the context of employment discrimination. Grimm’s case is the first involving transgender students, schools and restrooms.

  • December 19, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    The Editorial Board of The New York Times praises the new policy in New York that ends routine insurance discrimination against transgender individuals.

    Joel Rose reports for NPR on the Justice Department’s new lawsuit over the conditions at Rikers Island Jail.

    At Salon, Joe Conason argues that outrage over the new Cuba policy is misplaced.  

    Maurice Chammah explains at Slate why capital punishment cases are declining even in Texas.

    At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf considers how insensitivity and trigger-warnings are treated at law schools.

  • November 19, 2014

    by Katie O’Connor

    Throughout this week, individuals and organizations around the country observe Transgender Awareness Week to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and to address the issues these communities face. As part of that effort, ACS has released a new Issue Brief, “The Transgender Tipping Point: An Overview for the Advocate,” in which Dr. Jillian T. Weiss surveys the laws affecting the transgender community and offers guidance to advocates who seek to expand the legal protections provided to transgender people.

    There are approximately 700,000 transgender people in the United States, but until very recently they have been considered strangers to the law. For decades, courts consistently denied protections against discrimination for transgender people. It was not until 1989, in the case of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, that the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged that gender stereotyping constitutes unlawful sex discrimination. Since then, advocates have used laws prohibiting sex discrimination to protect people against discrimination based on transgender status, and courts have slowly become receptive to such cases.

    More recently, cities, states and the federal government have begun to explicitly protect transgender people against discrimination in the areas of employment, education, housing, health care and marriage, among others. Laws that once prohibited discrimination based on sex, race or religion have been amended to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

  • October 23, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In The Atlantic, Peter Beinart explains how voter ID laws channel an American tradition of restricting the political decisions of those with limited economic means.

    Emily Wax-Thibodeaux reports for The Washington Post on the announcement that Department of the Army engaged in discrimination against a transgender federal employee.

    A major factor in protecting the vote for minority voters in Arkansas was a 1865 ruling in favor of Confederate soldiers, writes Dahlia Lithwick for Slate.

    Nina Totenberg of NPR discusses Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s correction to her dissent on the Texas voter identification law.

    At Crime and Consequences, Ken Scheidegger argues that the Supreme Court should follow the example of the California Supreme Court in modifying opinions.

    Steven Mazie criticizes the lack of explanation from the Supreme Court on its decision to uphold the Texas voter identification law at The Economist

  • May 10, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Lisa Mottet, Transgender Civil Rights Project Director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

    Though garnering less attention than North Carolina's disheartening constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and President Obama's monumental announcement to support same-sex marriage, another recent piece of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) news deserves significant attention.

    In what is accurately hailed as a game-changing decision for the LGBT community, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in April (Macy v. Holder) that transgender people are protected by Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination in the workplace.

    The precedential decision involved Mia Macy, a transgender woman represented by Transgender Law Center who was all but officially hired by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) when, after she told them she is transgender, she was told the position had been cut due to funding. ATF actually hired someone else and Mia lost her home as a result of the lost job opportunity.

    When ATF discriminated against Mia she became part of the horrifying statistics on employment discrimination faced by transgender people. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey: 26 percent lost a job for being transgender; 50 percent were harassed at work; and many others face humiliation, have their privacy breached, and are denied access to appropriate restrooms. Overall, 78 percent have experienced mistreatment, harassment, or discrimination on the job.