POLITICS
03/02/2017 06:03 pm ET

Nearly 2,000 Religious Leaders Declare Support For Transgender Teen In Supreme Court Case

It's about "fundamental human dignity," they say.

More than 1,800 religious leaders threw their support behind a transgender student’s Supreme Court case on Thursday.

They argue that equal treatment for transgender individuals, like Virginia teen Gavin Grimm, does not threaten religious liberty.

Grimm is fighting for the right to use the high school restroom that aligns with his gender identity. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral argument in his lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board at the end of March.

In an amicus brief filed Thursday afternoon, 15 religious organizations and more than 1,800 individual faith leaders backed Grimm. Clergy from the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism were among those who signed the brief.

Gavin Grimm, the teenage plaintiff in a major transgender rights case, poses with parents David and Deirdre Grimm last year.
Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Gavin Grimm, the teenage plaintiff in a major transgender rights case, poses with parents David and Deirdre Grimm last year.

The push to protect the rights of transgender individuals has been a friction point among religious groups, with Christian conservatives arguing that doing so would interfere with what they consider to be biblical notions of gender and sexuality. Most of the churches and other groups represented in the brief, however, have an established track record of including LGBT individuals.

As their brief argues:

Amici come from faiths that have approached issues related to gender identity in different ways over the years, but are united in believing that the fundamental human dignity shared by all persons requires treating transgender students ... in a manner consistent with their gender identity. Amici also believe that, in our diverse and pluralistic society, the civil rights of transgender persons must be addressed according to religiously neutral principles of equal protection under the law.

New York law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel filed the brief, which specifically contends that equal treatment for transgender individuals under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 would not impinge on religious freedom. Some conservative groups have argued the opposite in their amicus briefs.

“Religious freedom means that all voices may contribute to our national conversation, but particular religious perspectives on gender identity can neither be privileged, nor permitted to control the interpretation of statutes and regulations applicable to all,” the pro-Grimm brief states.

In another amicus brief filed Thursday, 53 major U.S. companies ― including Amazon, Apple, IBM, Intel and Microsoft ― also declared their support for Grimm. “Transgender individuals deserve the same treatment and protections as all other members of our society,” the brief says.

With his school’s permission, Grimm used the boys’ restroom for seven weeks in the fall of 2014, until several parents of fellow students and a number of other Gloucester County residents complained to the school board. The school told Grimm he had to start using a single-stall restroom in the nurse’s office ― a solution the teen called “humiliating.” 

“Our signatories believe that Gavin has the right to live his life consistent with his gender identity and reject the hurtful action of the school board in forcing him to use a stigmatizing separate restroom,” Kramer Levin partner Jeffrey Trachtman, the counsel of record on the religious leaders’ brief, said in a statement.

“Those who would impose their religious views to deny Gavin fair and equal treatment do not speak monolithically for American ‘religion,’” Trachtman added, “which as always embraces a rich diversity of views, no one of which may be allowed under our system to determine public policy.”

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