Transgender woman wins appeal in court case against Detroit-area funeral home


A MI funeral home discriminated against a transgender employee when it fired her for dressing as a woman rather than a man, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

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

Moore rejects the assertion Stephens' presentation as a woman would be a distraction for the deceased's loves ones at a funeral home, deriding the idea as "premised on presumed biases", as well as the notion it would place a burden on Rost's religious beliefs because he pays for attire for employees. "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".

The appeals court also overturned the ruling as to whether the EEOC's enforcement efforts must give way to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which "prohibits the government from enforcing a religiously neutral law against an individual if that law substantially burdens the individual's religious exercise and is not the least restrictive way to further compelling government interest".

Rost says God has called him to minister to grieving people, and the funeral home website says its highest priority is to honor God.

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U.S. Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore, a Clinton appointee, said in the 49-page unanimous opinion issued by the court that R.G.

"Today's decision is an exciting and important victory for transgender people and allied communities across the country", John Knight, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU's LGBT and HIV Project, said in a March 7 statement. "In too many workplaces around the country, coming out as trans is a fireable offense, as our client Aimee Stephens personally experienced".

The new ruling by the Court of Appeals affirms that the protections in Title VII extend to transgenders as well. "We are consulting with our client to consider their options for appeal". "We are thrilled for Aimee, and for all trans folks, to be able to announce this win today".

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. Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief in the case supporting Stephens and the EEOC.

"[However] the Funeral Home is not affiliated with a church; it does not claim to have a religious objective in its articles of incorporation; it is open every day, including Christian holidays; and it serves clients of all faiths".

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The case is the latest to weigh in on whether Title VII relates to gender identity and sexual orientation, something the Department of Justice has fought under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

"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.

Joining in Moore in the decision is U.S. Circuit Judge Jeffrey White, an appointee of George W. Bush; and U.S. Circuit Judge Bernice Donald, an Obama appointee. ADF's Douglas G. Wardlow also represented R.G.

A three-judge panel on the court found that R.G.

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