While groups supporting transgender rights are celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision on bathrooms for transgender students, the polarizing issue might not be resolved in Kentucky.
On Monday, the Supreme Court said it would not hear an appeal from the Gloucester County, Va., school board in a case that began six years ago, when Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student, then 15, filed a lawsuit because of a policy that prohibited Grimm from using the boys’ bathroom.
Lower courts ruled that the school board’s policy requiring students to use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex or go to a private bathroom violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits schools that receive federal funding from discriminating based on sex. By choosing not to hear the case, the Supreme Court left in place the rulings in the student’s favor.
“I do think it ends the debate,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Kentucky Fairness Campaign.
“We won a significant victory for transgender rights when the Supreme Court declined to hear this case,” said Jackie McGranahan, policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky.
But that may not prevent more attempts to change state law in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, and more bills addressing LGBTQ — and particularly transgender — rights are being filed than ever in Kentucky.
Martin Cothran, the spokesman for The Family Foundation, said he thinks prior attempts to pass bathroom bills in Kentucky didn’t get much traction because legislators “just didn’t think it was something imminent here, and I think that situation is changing..”
“You probably will see this again,” he said.
Hartman said there were “seven anti-LGBTQ bills” filed in Frankfort during the last legislative session, “the most we’ve ever fought,” though he noted that bipartisan support for the LGBTQ community is growing.
The ruling by the lower court in Grimm’s case is binding in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, an attorney for Lambda Legal, which advocates for LGBT rights, told the Associated Press.
In Kentucky, the question of which bathrooms transgender students should be allowed to use is handled by individual school districts. Bills seeking to set up a statewide policy similar to the Virginia district’s have been filed in the state legislature multiple times.
In 2015, Kentucky was the first state in the nation, Hartman said, to introduce legislation that addressed which bathroom transgender students could use. Though that measure passed the Senate, it did not make it through the full legislature.
Since then, similar bills have been introduced periodically, though they have not gained much traction.
Cothran said having a statewide policy would be a matter of “convenience” for school districts.
“There’s a lot of districts who would rather not have to deal with it and have some guidelines that they can all follow,” he said. “It settles the matter.”