Virginia Supreme Court Reinstates Teacher Who Said Using Trans Kids’ Pronouns Will ‘Defile The Holy Image Of God’

Photo: WSLS 10
Tanner Cross

Another day, another tragic instance of justice not being served. 

An elementary school gym teacher suspended for spurning a trans-inclusive policy is allowed to return back to school after the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling.

Byron “Tanner” Cross, the transphobic elementary school teacher was initially placed on a paid administrative leave from Leesburg Elementary School in Loudoun County.

A Virginia teacher was reinstated after expressing anti-trans views.

In May, Cross openly openly opposed a proposal requiring school staff to refer to students by their correct names and pronouns

The trans-inclusive policy that Cross claimed would “damage children” will allow students to use a name different than their legal name and assigned pronouns.

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In addition, all students are free to use facilities and participate in activities that are consistent with their gender identity.

All school staff members will also be held accountable to address trans students by their preferred names and pronouns.

What's so unconstitutional about that?

Cross claimed respecting trans students was against his religion.

"I'm a teacher, but I serve God first," Cross said, "and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it's against my religion, it’s lying to a child, it's abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.”

Cross, a staunch Christian, publicly disavowed the proposal to protect the rights of transgender and gender-expansive students and the Virginia Supreme Court went to bat for him.

Virginia's Supreme court ruled against Cross' suspension.

Virginia Supreme Court judges claimed that Cross’ suspension was in direct violation of his “constitutional rights” to freedom of speech and religion under the First Amendment.

​Instead of advocating for trans youth, the court defended Cross, stating that he was simply “opposing a policy that might burden his freedoms of expression and religion by requiring him to speak and interact with students in a way that affirms gender transition, a concept he rejects for secular and spiritual reasons.”

Dismissing the trans-inclusive school policy as an act of “freedom of speech” is hatred disguised as heroism.

In this context, the desire to enact “freedom of speech” is a bigoted talking point used to conceal the motivation to push back against granting trans people basic human rights.

Creating a supportive environment for children to learn is not an assault on anyone’s religious liberty or freedom of speech.

Cross's defense is a form of indirect bigotry, labeling activists as oppressors, under the guise of adhering to the First Amendment. 

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A right-wing legal group defended the teacher's anti-trans stance.

Cross was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing legal group who filed the lawsuit against the school board on his behalf.

Cross’ attorneys claimed that the school board’s decisions were driven by “outside interests.”

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Even though they are the ones being driven by their outside interests to oppose affirming gender identities.

“This is not a demand from inside Loudoun County,” said ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer.

“You’re seeing this across the nation. School boards are being inundated with these proposed policies which are coming in from very ideologically driven organizations who have an agenda, [and] who are trying to change the things that are being taught to our children.”

The Loudoun County Public Schools oppose the reinstatement of Cross.

In a press release, LCPS stated that it’s received “significant disruption” since Cross addressed the board with his transphobic rant.

Multiple parents approached Leesburg Elementary administrators, requesting that their students no longer have contact with Cross.

“Many students and parents at Leesburg Elementary have expressed fear, hurt, and disappointment about coming to school,” The Loudoun County Public School Board stated.

“Addressing those concerns is paramount to the school division’s goal to provide a safe, welcoming, and affirming learning environment for all students," the statement continued. 

Public-school employees' rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, LCPS also stated, do not "outweigh the rights of students to be educated in a supportive and nurturing environment."

RELATED: Why People Are Calling Florida’s Trans Bill "State-Sanctioned Sexual Assault Against Children"

Izzy Casey is a writer who covers pop culture, entertainment, and news for YourTango.