Yesterday (16th May) the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) filed a “friend of the court” brief (amicus brief) signed by 59 major U.S. companies, supporting transgender student Gavin Grimm, in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Grimm, a transgender boy, filed suit against the school board, alleging it violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by denying him use of the boy’s restroom.
“These companies are sending a powerful message to transgender children and their families that America’s leading businesses have their backs,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Across the country, corporate leaders are speaking out because they know attacking transgender youth isn’t just shameful — it also puts the families of their employees and customers at risk. Transgender students like Gavin are entitled to the full protection of the law, and must be affirmed, respected and protected in the classroom and beyond.”
Leading American businesses have long expressed a commitment to LGBTQ diversity and inclusion in their workforces as evidenced by inclusive policies, practices and benefits. Businesses realize being inclusive is not only the right thing to do — it just makes good business sense as well. Companies that are inclusive of LGBTQ people and employees with LGBTQ family members are able to attract and retain the best and brightest across a wide spectrum of diversity, reap the benefits from increased engagement and productivity, and actively participate in the vibrant LGBTQ consumer marketplace.
Having built inclusive workplaces for their transgender employees or even transgender dependents of employees, companies have a vested interest in the legal landscape in which those employees and their dependents live, work or go to school.
The 59 companies, representing over 1.6 million employees and $670 billion in revenue, signing the brief are:
Affirm, Inc.; Airbnb, Inc.; Akamai Technologies, Inc.; Amazon.com, Inc.; Apple; AppNexus Inc.; Asana, Inc.; Bloomberg L.P.; Box, Inc.; Codecademy; Credo Mobile, Inc.; Dropbox, Inc.; eBay Inc.; Fastly, Inc.; Flipboard, Inc.; General Assembly Space, Inc.; GitHub, Inc.; IBM Corporation; Indiegogo, Inc.; Intel Corporation; Kaiser Permanente; Kickstarter, PBC; Knotel, Inc.; Linden Lab; LinkedIn Corporation; MAC Cosmetics Inc.; Mapbox, Inc.; Marin Software Incorporated; MassMutual Life Insurance Company; Meetup, Inc.; Microsoft Corporation; Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; MongoDB Inc.; NetApp, Inc.; Next Fifteen Communications Corp; Nextdoor.com, Inc.; NIO; Pandora Media, Inc.; PayPal Holdings, Inc.; Postmates Inc.; Replacements, Ltd.; RetailMeNot, Inc.; Salesforce.com, Inc.; Shutterstock, Inc.; Slack Technologies, Inc.; Spotify USA Inc.; SugarCRM Inc.; The OutCast Agency; The Gap, Inc.; Tumblr, Inc.; Twilio Inc.; Twitter Inc.; Warby Parker; Weebly, Inc.; Williams-Sonoma, Inc.; Xerox Corporation; Yahoo! Inc.; Yelp Inc.; and Zendesk, Inc.
The brief was authored by BakerHostetler, one of the nation’s prominent law firms.
“BakerHostetler is proud to represent our clients, including these 59 leading companies, in pursuing their missions of diversity and inclusion,” said BakerHostetler Partner Ona T. Wang. “This brief underscores the ongoing commitment of major U.S. corporations and HRC to the fight for the full protection of the law for all individuals,” added BakerHostetler Partner Edward J. Jacobs.
In June, a federal court ordered the Gloucester County School Board to allow Grimm full access to the restroom that corresponds with his gender identity, consistent with a ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In August, the Supreme Court of the United States halted the lower court’s order, allowing the school board’s discriminatory policy to remain in place while the court awaited an application by the school board to have its full appeal heard.
In March, the Supreme Court of the United States sent the Grimm case back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals following the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind guidance that protected transgender children in schools. Because the Fourth Circuit’s original ruling was heavily based on the Obama Administration’s guidance, the Supreme Court has asked the lower court to revisit the case and rule on the underlying statutory question regarding the scope of Title IX. Title IX should be understood to prohibit discrimination against transgender students including with respect to restroom access, regardless of the guidance.
Last week, the lawyers representing Virginia transgender teen Gavin Grimm filed a brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals asserting that the case remains relevant even after Grimm graduates from high school.
Allowing transgender people to access facilities consistent with their gender identity — something compelled for years by laws in 18 states as well as embraced by hundreds of cities and school districts around the country — has not resulted in problems. On the other hand, forcing transgender students to use sex-segregated facilities contrary to their identity can impose real harm on transgender students, further compounding the discrimination and marginalization they already face.
A recent study correlated the high suicide rates of transgender students with discriminatory bathroom restrictions, and, according to the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, more than 50 percent of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.