TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has joined with 22 other Attorneys General in fighting to support transgender individuals’ civil rights by filing an amicus brief in federal court arguing that schools cannot lawfully deny students access to the restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.
The multi-state brief supports Gavin Grimm, a transgender male who filed a lawsuit in 2015 – as a high school sophomore -- because his Gloucester County, Virginia, school district refused to let him use the boys’ restroom consistent with his gender identity. The district also refused to revise Grimm’s school transcripts to identify him as male despite the fact that he had obtained an amended birth certificate stating he is male. The lawsuit drew national attention when the U.S. Supreme Court granted review of Grimm’s case back in 2016, although it ultimately did not resolve the claims.
Grimm has since graduated high school. But his lawsuit, which challenges the school district’s policies, continues before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
“In New Jersey and across this country, individuals deserve the right to be treated in line with their gender identity and to live free of transphobia,” said Attorney General Grewal. “So in addition to issuing new policies last week that protect the safety and dignity of our transgender residents, I’m also standing up for their civil rights in court. Schools, bars and any other places of public accommodation may not discriminate against transgender individuals, and we’ll take action whenever they do.”
Among other things, Grimm is seeking damages and a declaration that the Gloucester County school district violated his rights under Title IX, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Grimm also seeks a permanent injunction against the school district that will allow him to use restrooms consistent with his gender identity when he returns to his school for alumni activities.
“Discrimination against transgender people has no legitimate basis, and serves only to injure a group that is feared for being different,” asserts the multi-state brief filed in support of Grimm. “Such discrimination harms transgender people at school, at work and in other settings, causing tangible economic, educational, emotional, and health consequences.”
The brief cites statistics and studies demonstrating the harmful effects of discrimination against transgender persons, ranging from specific health problems linked to avoiding restroom use to suicide. The brief notes that 20 states -- including New Jersey, the District of Columbia and 225 local governments -- have enacted protections against discrimination based on transgender status. It also cites research demonstrating that these anti-discrimination provisions have achieved significant benefits – for example, increased success rates for students – without compromising privacy or safety, or imposing significant extra costs. The brief also explains that the states which already permit students to use restrooms consistent with their gender identify have not experienced increased reports of harassment or other safety issues.
Today’s announcement comes in the wake of an announcement last week by Attorney General Grewal of three initiatives aimed at protecting New Jersey residents from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
On Nov. 20, Attorney General Grewal issued a directive to all state, county and local law enforcement agencies governing their interactions with transgender persons. Known as the “LGBTQ Equality Directive,” the directive is designed to ensure that all individuals are guaranteed safety and dignity when encountering law enforcement, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
At the same time, Attorney General Grewal announced a new public awareness campaign by DCR to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals under the LAD. As part of the awareness campaign, DCR has issued new fact sheets describing “5 Things You Should Know” about the LAD. The fact sheets are being distributed in public and on social media, and are posted on the DCR website.
Under a third initiative announced by Attorney General Grewal, the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) has updated its policy to ensure that, among other things, LGBTQ+ youth in the commission’s care are not harassed or discriminated against, and that JJC staff engage in “proper behavior and respectful communication” with LGBTQ+ youth.