NEW YORK — President Barack Obama vowed Wednesday to make his administration’s efforts to make transgender people’s bathroom use legal and easier for them to sue “tougher” and said he will ask the Supreme Court to intervene in the case of a transgender student suing the government for refusing to let her use a public bathroom in a Virginia school.
In his first major policy announcement since taking office in 2009, Obama said he would issue a memo to the Department of Justice that would make transgender Americans’ access to restrooms and locker rooms easier to sue.
The new policy would also require transgender people using public restrooms to be allowed to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, he said in a speech to the National Urban League’s National Summit in Washington, D.C. The policy would give them the right to sue if they were forced to use a bathroom that violated their gender identity.
“If you are a transgender woman, and you go to a public restroom, and the school tells you that you can’t use that bathroom, how do you go about fighting that?”
“How do you make it a little bit more difficult for transgender folks to sue?”
The president made the announcement during a two-hour speech that focused on health care, education, education reform, and other issues.
Obama said that while he has made progress on LGBT equality, the fight for equality continues.
“There are still people who still believe that there are things that are not right about being transgender, or that we should just give up,” he said.
Obama said that transgender people who use bathrooms that match the gender with which they were born should be able to sue, citing the federal case of Gavin Grimm, who sued the Gloucester County School District in Gloucester, Virginia, in February, claiming that he was barred from using the men’s restroom and that the district discriminated against him by refusing to allow him to use women’s restrooms.
Grimm’s attorney, Mark Geragos, has argued that the Gloucestershire County School Board’s policy on transgender bathrooms discriminates against transgender people.
In January, a federal appeals court ruled that the school board’s policy did not violate Grimm’s civil rights because it was not discriminatory.
Obama’s decision will likely be a major blow to Grimm’s lawsuit, which has been the focus of national attention.
The Gloucester school district is appealing the ruling, but the case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The administration will likely appeal the Gloucheshire County case, which could lead to the Supreme