RICHMOND — A judge who repeatedly referred to a transgender student’s “mental disorder” should be removed from presiding over the teenager’s lawsuit challenging a policy that bars him from using the boys’ restrooms at his high school, his attorneys said in court papers Wednesday.
Attorneys for 16-year-old Gavin Grimm also said U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar of Norfolk has made statements indicating he may be suspicious of modern medical science regarding gender identity and that he objected to lawyers publicizing their client’s transgender status.
Judge Doumar did not immediately respond to a telephone message from the The Associated Press.
Gavin’s lawyers asked for a new judge in a 58-page brief asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse two key rulings in the case.
Judge Doumar refused to grant a preliminary injunction that would have allowed Gavin to use the boys’ bathrooms when the new school year started in September, and he threw out a claim that the policy violates federal sex discrimination law. He has not yet ruled on Gavin’s claim that the policy violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.
The Gloucester High School junior, who was born female but identifies as male, filed the lawsuit after the school board adopted a policy requiring him to use either the girls’ restrooms or one of several single-stall unisex restrooms available to all students. He claims the policy is stigmatizing and discriminatory.
Gavin’s attorneys wrote in their brief that the transcript of a motions hearing conducted by Judge Doumar “indicates that the court has preexisting views about medical science in general — and medical science regarding gender and sexuality in particular — that the court may have substantial difficulty putting aside.”
They cited Judge Doumar’s support for the idea that allowing Gavin to use the boys’ restroom could lead to “mating.” Judge Doumar said medical science shows that “the brain only has two instincts. One is called self-preservation, and the other is procreation.”
Gavin has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition characterized by stress stemming from conflict between one’s gender identity and their physical sex at birth. His lawyers said Judge Doumar, while expressing his own views on medical science, refused to consider expert testimony about gender dysphoria.
The attorneys wrote that the American Psychiatric Association says gender dysphoria should not described as a disorder “because that terminology improperly stigmatizes transgender people,” yet Judge Doumar persisted in using the term. That “gratuitous labeling … does not reflect the sensitivity or care the public should expect from courts addressing these issues,” the lawyers said.
Gavin’s attorneys also said Judge Doumar “berated’ them at a hearing for filing the lawsuit under Gavin’s full name. He ordered them to refile the lawsuit using only the teenager’s initials.
At the hearing, Judge Doumar said: “I’m having a huge problem with everybody knowing that he desires to be a male and, in fact, his attorney advertising that to the world.”
Attorneys for the school officials named as defendants in the lawsuit have until Nov. 23 to file a response. In previous court papers, they argued that the policy is not discriminatory and that it reflects the school board’s “responsibility to its students to ensure their privacy while engaging in personal bathroom functions.”
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