Viewers who tuned in to the Grammy’s Sunday night hoping for a reprieve from political news couldn’t escape entirely.
Laverne Cox, the actress and trans activist best known for her role in “Orange is the New Black” took a moment to share the spotlight with another, perhaps lesser known voice in transgender activism: 17-year-old Virginia high school senior Gavin Grimm.
“Everyone, please Google ‘Gavin Grimm.’ He’s going to the Supreme Court in March. Hashtag Stand With Gavin,” Cox said, before introducing fellow LGBT activist and performer Lady Gaga.
Grimm’s story first came to media attention in 2015, when the ACLU and ACLU of Virginia filed lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board for passing a measure which prohibiting transgender students from using restrooms consistent with their gender identities. Grimm, assigned female at birth, identifies as male.
The Washington Post spoke with Grimm Sunday, about the mention from Laverne Cox. “I was just so thrilled because I love her. She’s just a beautiful person inside and out,” Grimm said. “I was really touched and thrilled and honored that that was the first thing out of her mouth.”
Grimm was initially permitted to use the boys’ restroom; his high school did not reverse its decision until conservative activists protested to the county school board. The school board’s motion to restrict access to transgender students passed six to one. The ACLU argues that the motion violates Title IX, of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 which prohibits any form of discrimination based on gender.
A federal court ruling in August sided with Grimm, finding the Gloucester County School Board violated Title IX by having Grimm use separate facilities from other boys. The details of this case are in part based on a directive issued by the Obama administration last May, calling for public schools to allow students to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identities.
“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus," said Education Secretary John B. King Jr. in a letter from the Justice and Education Departments reasserting the administration's position on the issue.
“This guidance further clarifies what we’ve said repeatedly — that gender identity is protected under Title IX. Educators want to do the right thing for students, and many have reached out to us for guidance on how to follow the law. We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”
But, the new Trump administration has the power to undo many of these protections. Slate reported newly confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in her confirmation hearing that she could not yet pledge to uphold Obama’s Title IX guidelines, as they apply to incidents of sexual assaults on campuses and how they are reported.
“If confirmed, I look forward to understanding the past actions and current situation better, and to ensuring that the intent of the law is actually carried out in a way that recognizes both the victim ... as well as those who are accused,” said DeVos.
However, Slate also reports that should Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch be confirmed in time for the case, he may be a voice to uphold the Title IX protections. In 2007, Gorsuch was judge on a panel that unanimously affirmed the right of a University of Colorado student to sue their school over Title IX violations.
When Grimm heads to the Supreme Court in March, his will be the first case in its history where the Court will focus entirely on transgender rights. March 31 also happens to be International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Related: ACLU, Gavin Grimm Suits Up for Court