The Bathroom Bill Era is Over

The bathroom bill movement spawned in 2015 is officially dead after the Supreme Court declined to take up Gavin Grimm’s lawsuit earlier this week

Katelyn Burns
3 min readJun 30, 2021


Two students in a gender neutral bathroom. Zackery Drucker/The Gender Spectrum Collection

When he was 15 years old, Gavin Grimm asked to use the boy’s room at his school after coming out as transgender. At first, the school allowed it, but not long after the school board for Gloucester County school district in Virginia reversed course, responding to public outcry.

The school adopted a policy applying to boys and girls “with gender issues” that essentially treated trans adolescents like Grimm as a third, deviant gender category. Grimm was forced to use bathroom facilities that no other student at the school was required to use, often forcing him to miss extended periods of class time not missed by his cisgender schoolmates.

So Grimm, along with his attorneys at the ACLU, filed suit in 2016. Four years later the 4th District US Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, the third federal circuit to rule in favor of trans school bathroom access. Earlier this week, the US Supreme Court refused to take up the case, meaning the 4th Circuit ruling stands and is now a key legal precedent in the states represented on the circuit: Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and North and South Carolina.

More importantly was the lack of effort by anti-trans legal entities to fight back at SCOTUS. The Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal brain behind nearly every major legal challenge to trans rights chose not to intervene in the Supreme Court, suggesting enthusiasm for bathroom bans has finally waned on the right.

In 2015, the anti-LGBTQ movement was reeling from the Obergefell making marriage equality the law of the land nationwide. It was the most devastating blow the anti-side had taken and many pundits speculated that the LGBTQ rights movement — and the concurrent anti-LGBTQ movement — was no longer needed.

Instead the anti’s changed course to target trans people. In the fall of 2015, the city of Houston held a referendum over a city non-discrimination ordinance that included LGBTQ protections. National LGBTQ advocates took the race for granted, assuming the aftershocks of the Obergefell ruling would sweep aside…



Katelyn Burns

Political journalist. The first openly trans Capitol Hill reporter in US history. Writing about more than just trans issues. Follow her on Twitter @transscribe


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