Transgender People Are Protected From Workplace Discrimination, a Court Ruled

Court Rules In Favor Of Fired Transgender Garden City Funeral Director

"Discrimination on the basis of transgender and transitioning status is necessarily discrimination on the basis of sex, and thus the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] should have had the opportunity to prove that the Funeral Home violated Title VII by firing Stephens because she is transgender and transitioning from male to female", judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote in the appeals court's opinion.

Religious freedom law doesn't shield funeral...

"That could be a religious belief that someone has, but at this same time most people understand that it's wrong to decriminalize, and it's wrong to fire someone from their job that they're doing perfectly well just because they're transgender". Second, it makes clear religious freedom as outlined under RFRA doesn't supersede Title VII's prohibition on employment discrimination.

Karen Moore - a federal judge who once ruled that judges have almost absolute immunity from claims over their behavior, even when they are "petty, unethical and unworthy" - now has concluded that a funeral home must allow a male employee to dress in skirts, nylons and high heels.

"Harris Funeral Home's dress code is tailored to serve those mourning the loss of a loved one".

In her reasoning for the decision, Moore first establishes anti-transgender discrimination is sex discrimination.

"An employer can not discriminate on the basis of transgender status without imposing its stereotypical notions of how sexual organs and gender identity ought to align", Moore writes.

The court also rejected the company's argument that it didn't violate Title VII because keeping Stephens on as an employee after she informed owner Thomas Rost that she would be transitioning from male to female in the workplace would have violated his sincerely held religious beliefs.

Moore's opinion referenced Anthony Stephens, the employee who complained about the funeral home's practice, as "her".

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The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Stephens in the case, her lawyers called the decision an important victory for transgender workers. "In too many workplaces around the country, coming out as trans is a fireable offense, as our client Aimee Stephens personally experienced".

Nor does compliance with Title VII amount to an endorsement of Stephens' views, the appeals court said.

The judge adopted former President Obama's belief that when Congress adopted the Title IX non-discrimination law in 1972, members intended it to include not only a persons" "physiology" but also their "self-assigned "gender identity'".

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which filed an amicus brief in the case, celebrated the panel's decision.

"Aimee Stephens had worked diligently for this funeral home for six years. It's unconscionable that an employer would fire her simply because she began to live and dress in a manner consistent with her gender identity", Laser said in a statement.

Harris Funeral Homes was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Gary McCaleb, senior counsel at ADF, said the decision "misreads court precedents that have long protected businesses which properly differentiate between men and women in their dress and grooming policies". In a written statement, he said the Sixth Circuit opinion "re-writes federal law and is directly contrary to decisions from other federal appellate courts". However, according to Reuters, this week's case in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court is the first to consider a religious defense in a case.

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