Why 53 CEOs have Joined One 17-Year-Old’s Court Battle

GettyImages-530594532-compressorTech-sector CEOs showed they weren’t afraid to defy the president by mounting a legal response to his controversial immigration ban. Now, dozens of them have rallied in defense of a 17-year-old Virginian high-school student who identifies as transgender.

Apple, Microsoft and IBM are among 53 companies that lodged a friend-of-the-court brief on Thursday supporting Gavin Grimm, who is challenging a Gloucester County School Board decision to block the female-born student, who identifies as male, from using the boys bathroom.

Their support comes after the president last week rescinded Obama administration guidance to public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms aligned to their gender identity.

Signatories also include Amazon, Intel, Salesforce, Twitter and Yahoo. A few companies outside the tech sector also are involved, including clothing retailer Gap and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance.

“GENDER IDENTITY DISCRIMINATION IS A FORM OF SEX DISCRIMINATION.

Many American companies, both inside and outside of Silicon Valley, promote diversity as a harbinger of innovation, claiming that it helps them gain new perspectives and attract talent. In the court brief, the companies noted that many of their customers and staff are transgender, while expressing concern “about the stigmatizing and degrading effects” of the Gloucester County policy.

“Gender identity discrimination is a form of sex discrimination,” they said. A main point of contention to be addressed in the court case is whether federal law intended to prevent sex discrimination in schools covers transgender students.

United Therapeutics founder and CEO Martine Rothblatt, who is transgender, filed a separate court brief arguing discrimination could prevent talented students from reaching their potential.

“Right now, in classrooms around the United States, there are transgender students who have the potential to create a new technology that will transform an industry, to found a company that will develop a treatment for a previously intractable disease,” Rothblatt said.

Several other CEOs have spoken frequently about transgender rights, including Salesforce’s Mark Benioff and Apple’s Tim Cook. Last April, when several states were passing bathroom segregation legislation on religious grounds, department store chain Target announced that it would allow staff and customers to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

“All children are created equal & need unconditional love. All deserve freedom from fear, anxiety & threats of discrimination. Love 1&all,” Benioff wrote on Twitter last week.

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