We would like to dedicate this edition of our humble column to a brave and tenacious young man: the awesomely named Gavin Grimm, who has (thus far) triumphed in the face of unrelenting adversity and intolerance to champion a basic human right: to pee in peace and comfort. A junior at Gloucester High School, Gavin has long identified as male, and was allowed to use the boys room at his high school for almost two months after he went public with his innate dudeness. But then some local parents got their hate on, and a small-minded district court judge named Robert Doumar ruled that Gavin could not, in fact, use the bathroom that matched his identity.
Luckily, a federal appeals court has now reversed that decision and, for the first time, said that transgender students are covered by Title IX, which bars discrimination on the basis of gender. Even better, this fourth circuit court ruling also covers North Carolina, which recently passed a bill that basically forces everyone in the state to carry around a birth certificate in order to prove they’re in the “correct” bathroom.
The reason we are saluting Gavin at this particular moment (other than the fact that he is awesome) is because, with the final gavel falling on the General Assembly’s veto override session, we have now officially exited Virginia’s annual legislative onslaught without any horrible transphobic legislation becoming the law of the land. This is no mean feat, people! Both Senate Bill 41, which protected gay-marriage-refusing officiants, and House Bill 781, which sought to levy a fine on the Gavin Grimms of this world for simply using the bathroom, could easily have become law.
But they did not, and for that we are profoundly grateful. We are also grateful that not one of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s well-considered vetoes was overridden during the one-day exercise in futility the General Assembly recently endured. Without the Macker’s veto pen, we would now be living in a commonwealth that not only allowed blatant discrimination against same-sex couples, but also propped up the coal industry with taxpayer dollars, cut funding to Planned Parenthood, expanded access to guns, protected all Confederate monuments from being removed from public lands and allowed parents to bar their children from reading any books in school that contained “sexually explicit material” (the bye-bye, Judy Blume bill, as we like to call it).
Of course, Governor McAuliffe also helped draft a bill that would allow the state to obtain drugs for executions under a veil of secrecy, so that nobody would know which compounding pharmacy is blatantly violating the Hippocratic Oath.
But all in all, considering what a horror show the recent legislative session could have been, it feels like we dodged a bullet (in the case of that vetoed gun legislation, quite literally). Then again, with the Republicans firmly in control of the assembly for the foreseeable future, there’s always next year. And the year after that. And the year after that…
Odd Dominion is an unabashedly liberal, twice-monthly op-ed column covering Virginia politics.