Panel Provides Overview of Transgender Rights Litigation

Transgender Panel

The panel featured Simone Bell, regional director of Lambda Legal and a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives (from left); Andrew Baumert, a Georgia State University chemistry graduate student, who was one of two appellants in a successful challenge to a lower court ruling barring them from changing their names to conform to their gender identity; and Greg Nevins, an attorney with Lambda Legal.

Giving an overview of the litigation landscape for transgender rights, Georgia State University College of Law’s Center for Access to Justice and student group OUTLaw presented a March 9 panel to a standing-room only crowd.

“This timely panel was enlightening and inspiring,” said Darcy Meals, assistant director of the Center for Access to Justice. “Too often issues of law and policy can seem divorced from the people they affect, but today’s panel reminds us of the ways in which access to legislative or legal resources can have a huge impact on individual lives.”

The panel featured Greg Nevins, an attorney with Lambda Legal; Simone Bell, regional director of Lambda Legal and a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives; and Andrew Baumert, a Georgia State University chemistry graduate student, who was one of two appellants in a successful challenge to a lower court ruling barring them from changing their names to conform to their gender identity. Andrew Navratil (J.D. ’18) moderated the panel.

Nevins, the Lambda Legal attorney, described the facts of Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., which was filed when a Virginia school board refused to follow Obama-era guidance from the Department of Education instructing schools to “generally treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” The U.S. Supreme Court was slated to hear oral argument in the case in late March. However, in light of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the federal guidance, the Court vacated the opinion of the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, sending the case back for further consideration.

Bell, regional director for Lambda Legal, discussed legislative developments across the Southeast, including the ongoing battle surrounding North Carolina’s H.B. 2, which, among other things, prohibits transgender people from using public bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Despite the economic impact of HB 2 in North Carolina – where a number of businesses have withdrawn or cancelled plans for development in response to the discriminatory nature of the bill, Bell said, the Legislature has yet to repeal it. And, other states across the Southeast continue to entertain similar bills or bills designed to obstruct passage of protective measures.

During the question and answer session, Bell encouraged students to get involved in local politics, whether by canvassing for candidates or running for office, noting that much of the relevant legislation occurs at the local, not national, level.

Baumert, the chemistry student, talked about his experience with name-change litigation here in Georgia. Baumert’s request to change his name was initially denied when the judge ruled that “Andrew” was too masculine for a transgender man and might therefore be confusing or misleading to the general public.

Lambda Legal assisted Baumert with his appeal, and in January, the Georgia Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the lower court’s order, allowing Baumert to change his name weeks before the appeals court panel was scheduled to hear oral argument in the case.

Baumert described how stunned and happy he was to receive the news on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, as he was working in a Georgia State University lab. Now, able to legally claim a name that reflects who he is, Baumert is more fully able to live his authentic life.

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