A Federal Court Just Made a Big Decision About Transgender Rights

Court Rules In Favor Of Fired Transgender Garden City Funeral Director

Expand | Collapse (Photo: RG&GR Harris Funeral Homes) Tom Rost, president and owner of the R.G.

A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that a MI funeral home violated federal civil rights law when it terminated transgender employee Aimee Stephens for deciding to dress as a woman.

"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", she continued.

The court sided with Aimee Stephens in her suit against R.G.

While Stephens claims she was sacked based on the owner's Christian beliefs, which don't align with her transgender lifestyle, the funeral home claims it was simply upholding its gender-specific dress code.

Representing Harris Funeral Home in the case was Alliance Defending Freedom, a anti-LGBT legal firm that has engaged in efforts nationwide to promote the idea religious liberty should take precedent over LGBT rights. "It does address the funeral home's religious excuse in a comprehensive and powerful way".

"Today's decision misreads court precedents that have long protected businesses which properly differentiate between men and women in their dress and grooming code policies", stated ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. She was represented by the ACLU.

Moore wrote, "We refer to Stephens using female pronouns, in accordance with the preference she has expressed through her briefing to this court".

In Sept. 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against the funeral home over the firing of Aimee Stephens, formerly Anthony Stephens.

Rost, who was provided free legal representation by anti-LGBT evangelical law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, also claimed that his actions were protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 U.S. law that bolstered protections for people based on "freedom of religion".

The owners of the funeral home, who did not immediately return a call for comment, argued in court that transitioning to another gender is against their beliefs.

"Aimee Stephens had worked diligently for this funeral home for six years".

He does not discriminate in his hiring. After informing [funeral home owner] Rost of an intention to begin dressing as a female at work, the employee was dismissed for refusing to comply with the dress code.

For a time, he provided men with a small allowance to buy clothing, but not women, a policy he changed several years before the dispute arose.

"Moreover, whatever this Court would say about the question were it writing on a blank slate, Congress has made clear through its actions and inactions in this area that Title VII's prohibition of sex discrimination does not encompass sexual orientation discrimination". He also says the Bible teaches "that a person's sex is an immutable God-given gift" and he would be violating God's commandments to permit funeral directors to deny their sex, the opinion says.

The judge added: "RFRA provides the Funeral Home with no relief because continuing to employ Stephens would not, as a matter of law, substantially burden Rost's religious exercise, and even if it did, the EEOC has shown that enforcing Title VII here is the least restrictive means of furthering its compelling interest in combating and eradicating sex discrimination".

Not only would Rost be violating his faith if he were to pay for and otherwise permit his employees to dress as members of the opposite sex while at work, ADF attorneys explain, but the employee dress policy is also created to be sensitive to interaction with customers at an especially delicate time of their lives. "This opinion instead re-writes federal law and is directly contrary to decisions from other federal appellate courts". "We are consulting with our client to consider their options for appeal".

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