In March, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, a case about transgender bathroom access. Gavin Grimm, the plaintiff—who has legally and medically transitioned from female to male—argues that under Title IX, his high school must let him use the men’s bathroom. The case has drawn a great deal of interest from both liberal and conservative advocacy groups, many of which have filed amicus briefs in support of either Grimm or his school. Three of these briefs caught my eye this week—one filed by Liberty Counsel, and two filed by the National Organization for Marriage together with the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. These briefs, which argue against Grimm’s right to use the men’s bathroom, identifies him this way in their front-page captions (emphasis mine):
G. G., BY HER NEXT FRIEND AND MOTHER, DEIRDRE GRIMM
But the Supreme Court, as well as all lower courts, identify him this way:
G. G., BY HIS NEXT FRIEND AND MOTHER, DEIRDRE GRIMM
That slightly odd formulation reflects the formal way that federal courts style a juvenile litigant’s name. (Grimm is 17.) It also obviously necessitates a gendered pronoun use. Did these anti-LGBTQ groups misgender Grimm by mistake? I posed the question to Liberty Counsel on Wednesday, and the organization confirmed that it used a female pronoun because “Gavin Grimm is a biological girl who now says she subjectively ‘identifies’ as a ‘boy.’ ”
These groups may passionately believe that Grimm is a girl—but unfortunately for them, they aren’t entitled to change his gender in the caption of their amicus briefs. The court has very specific rules governing these briefs, and Rule 34 of the Rules of the Supreme Court requires that each brief “shall bear on its cover ... the caption of the case as appropriate in this Court.”
On Thursday, Mark Joseph Stern from Slate asked the Supreme Court’s press office whether the clerk of the court considered the altered pronoun in the briefs’ captions to be “appropriate.” And on Friday, a spokeswoman for the court informed Marke that the clerk, Scott S. Harris, had sent out letters reprimanding the groups that misgendered Grimm and demanding that they comply with the rules moving forward. You can read the letters here and here.
Obviously, this single rebuke will not persuade these organizations to respect Grimm’s gender identity. But it does, I think, effectively disqualify these amicus briefs from serious consideration. By misgendering Grimm, these briefs clearly reflect the kind of animus that moved the school board to bar Grimm from the correct bathroom in the first place. The briefs reject the very validity of Grimm’s identity in a manner that is both offensive and petty. Indeed, these organizations are so eager to deny Grimm this basic dignity that they intentionally flouted the rules of the Supreme Court of the United States. It is difficult to imagine a justice citing anything these groups’ briefs say—even those who vote against Grimm. Liberty Counsel, NOM, and the CCJ have given the game away, revealing that while they claim to care about bathroom predators, they are really attempting to repudiate trans people’s identity.
And to think—they might’ve convinced a few justices to cite their bigoted illogic if they had only put aside their animus for a moment and followed the rules of the court.