Transgender rights case at SCOTUS faces legal doctrine question
The case involves a request by a Virginia school board for a review of a federal circuit ruling on a Title IX interpretation of the Department of Education that would allow a transgender student’s use of school bathrooms.
According to Alison Frankel of Reuters, conservatives want the high court’s say on the matter because: “Beneath the fight over the rights of transgender students is a legal doctrine loathed by opponents of big government.”
Transgender rights case: The facts
The transgender rights case in question involves the the Gloucester County School Board and the student, 17-year old Gavin Grim, who identifies as a boy.
Grim had sued the board for its policy that requires students to use bathrooms that match their “biological sex.” An appeals court backed him and ruled that the federal government should handle the matter.
The Department of Education then issued their guidance on Title IX– the federal law that bans sex discrimination in public schools or else risk their federal funding– that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.
Obviously, a number of states weren’t happy with this decision and a lawsuit was filed arguing the federal government had overstepped its authority.
The case was eventually raised to the Supreme Court, where it had decided to review the matter while granting temporary permission to the school in keeping bathrooms separate.
Transgender rights case: The questions
The questions surrounding the transgender right case in the matter is two-fold.
The most obvious one is that with the Gloucester case up for consideration, the Obama administration can’t use it as justification to open school showers, bathrooms, and locker rooms.
This is especially important as other school bathroom cases are making their way through the federal courts.
Eighteen state attorney-generals– together with the Kentucky and North Carolina governors– have also filed a legal challenge against the Education Department’s ruling.
However, Frankel writes that there’s another legal question that conservatives want the high court to consider when the case is brought before them.
“Critics of the so-called administrative state see the bathroom access cases as an opportunity to overturn the Supreme Court’s 1997 decision in Auer v. Robbins, which established that courts must consider a federal agency’s interpretation of its own regulations to be controlling unless the interpretation is plainly wrong,” Frankel pointed out.
The Auer doctrine is related to the case of Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, wherein the Supreme Court in 1984 noted that courts “must defer to executive branch agencies to interpret ambiguous statutes in their sphere of enforcement.”
In this case, the Auer doctrine was cited by the appeals court in the Gloucester case when letting the Education Department’s interpret Title IX in the matter.
“The justices are scheduled to conference on the Gloucester cert petition on Oct. 14. If they take the case, a lot more than transgender students’ rights to use the bathroom of their gender identity will be at stake,” Frankel said.