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Supreme Court asks litigants to file opinion letters on Virginia transgender bathroom policy

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] asked both sides of the Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] case on Thursday to submit letters to the court [SCOTUSblog report] discussing "how the case should proceed in light of" the Trump administration's revocation [JURIST report] of the Obama-era guidance on school transgender bathroom policies. The Department of Education (DOE) interpretation of of Title IX required schools to "treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity." Essentially, the question currently before the court [cert. petition, PDF] is whether the DOE's guidance letter be given any legal effect, and, if not, whether the Title IX prohibition against sex discrimination in education should regardless be interpreted in such a manner as to cover transgender students as a protected group. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which represents the plaintiff Galvin Grimm, argues that the Title IX definition of sex discrimination is sufficiently broad to cover gender identity while the Gloucester school board counters that the definition warrants a narrow interpretation centering on "physiological distinctions between men and women." The Trump administration is not directly involved [Reuters report] in the litigation of this case, but a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Grimm will bind it and school boards across the country to its decision. Both sides have urged the Court to make a determination one way or another and provide the necessary clarity rather than avoiding the issue by remanding it back to a lower court. The court has set a March 1 deadline for both sides to file opinion letters, and the case has been scheduled for oral argument on March 28.

Anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity has created much controversy in the past several months. The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday ruled [JURIST report] that Fayetteville city ordinance 5781 broadening nondiscrimination laws to include sexual orientation or gender identity is invalid under § 14-1-403 of the Interstate Commerce Improvement Act (Act 137) [text, PDF]. This state statute prohibited cities from adopting or enforcing "an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination" on a basis not contained in Arkansas law. North Carolina lawmakers filed a bipartisan bill [JURIST report] on Wednesday aimed at breaking the impasse over the state's "bathroom bill" (HB2) [text, PDF] that requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificate. A bipartisan agreement to repeal the North Carolina "bathroom bill" fell apart in December [JURIST report] after each party accused the other of reneging on promises. Two weeks ago, the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] withdrew its appeal of an injunction [JURIST report] preventing the enforcement of the "Dear Colleague" guidance that schools should allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choosing. Last week the Parliament of Finland [official website, in Finnish] voted 120-48 [JURIST report] to confirm a law allowing same-sex marriage. Earlier this month the UK announced [JURIST report] that thousands of gay and bisexual men who were convicted of sexual offenses received a posthumous pardon as their actions are no longer deemed illegal under British law.

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