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Published On: Wed, Oct 9th, 2019

Supreme Court may hear Aimee Stephens, transgender funeral home case

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in three cases that will determine whether LGBTQ workers have federal protections against sex-based discrimination in the workplace in the wake of transgender firing from their employer or cases where religious conscience has come into play.

One case which may be key is “a case involving a funeral home dress code and a transgender male employee who sought to dress as a female during the course of his work as funeral home director” – the Aimee Stephens case.

Aimee Stephens transgender firing funeral home

Aimee Stephens

From yesterday’s presser from the Thomas More Society:

Today, as the United States Supreme Court reviews a case involving a funeral home dress code and a transgender male employee who sought to dress as a female during the course of his work as funeral home director, Thomas More Society attorneys are defending the rights of women business owners and executives as protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The not-for-profit, national public interest law firm has filed an amici curiae (friends of the court) brief on behalf of the female owners of Texas businesses, including a restaurant chain, marketing solutions firm, and commercial finance and leasing company.

At risk in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al. are the protections provided by Title VII against employment discrimination “because of … sex.”  The Thomas More Society amicus brief argues that rewriting Title VII to encompass transgender status will harm women, and that interpreting “sex” to mean “gender identity” is unnecessary to combat sexual stereotypes.

Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Joan Mannix noted that workplace discrimination against women because of their sex remains a significant impediment to the advancement of women . “Protecting biological men who self-identify as women, undermines the advances made by women under the protection of Title VII since its passage,” she explained.

“To redefine ‘sex’ to include fluid ‘gender identity’ opens the door to abuse of an anti-discrimination statute which was intended to prohibit workplace discrimination against women,” continued Mannix, who is representing the female CEOs. “It will allow biological males who identify as females to take advantage of opportunities created specifically for women to rectify the long history of discrimination against women in the workplace.”

Mannix summarized the case currently before the Supreme Court. “The biological man who identifies himself as Aimee Stephens worked for the Harris Funeral Homes for six years, following the male dress code in the employee handbook. Stephens, upon deciding to publicly identify as a female, indicated he no longer wanted to adhere to the employee handbook’s dress code as it applied to males, and an intention to present as a female and to wear women’s clothing at work.  The devoutly Christian owner of the Harris Funeral Home, Thomas Rost, established the dress code out of respect for grieving families, and was never intended to discriminate against anyone.  He concluded Stephens’ proposal would not “work out.” Stephens refused the offered severance package and subsequently filed a lawsuit in which he sought to allege a violation of Title VII. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Stephens, effectively judicially amending the word “sex” as used in Title VII to mean “gender identity” and held that discrimination on the basis of transgender identity violates Title VII. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently agreed to hear the case along with two other cases which also raise issues as to the interpretation of “sex” as used in Title VII.

Read the Thomas More Society’s Brief for Amici Curiae Women Business Owners and CEOs in Support of Petitioner, filed August 23, 2019, with the United States Supreme Court in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al. here [https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/20190823170411667_18-107-Amicus-Brief.pdf].

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