High Court Takes Pass on Transgender Bathroom Case

From left, Supreme Court justices John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan attend President Donald Trump's address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, February 28. The Supreme Court on Monday sent a closely watched case involving transgender bathroom access at a Virginia high school back to a lower court. Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool/Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court avoided a ruling on transgender rights by sending a closely watched case involving bathroom access at a Virginia high school back to a lower court on Monday after President Donald Trump rolled back protections for transgender students.

Lawyers for a transgender student named Gavin Grimm, who was born female and identifies as male, had asked the justices to decide the case despite the Trump administration's February 22 action. The court previously had set arguments in the case for March 28.

Grimm sued the Gloucester County School Board to win the right to use the public school's boys' bathroom, saying the school's refusal violated federal anti-discrimination law and the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The Trump administration rescinded landmark protections for transgender students ordered by former President Barack Obama last year that had permitted them to use bathrooms that matched their gender identity.

Obama's guidance said that transgender students were protected under a federal law barring sex discrimination in education. The Trump administration's move left the decision to the states.

The case now goes back to the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in April 2016 ruled in favor of Grimm based on the Obama administration's interpretation of the anti-discrimination law. The 4th Circuit now gets a second chance to rule on the dispute, with its earlier ruling wiped off the books.

The law involved in the case is Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which applies to federally funded schools. The question of whether it covers transgender students remains unresolved and is likely to reach the high court at some time.