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Trump administration says it’s legal to fire a person for being transgender

Ryan Butcher August 17, 2019

Donald Trump holds a rainbow flag given by a supporter during a 2016 campaign rally in Colorado (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

The Trump administration has told the Supreme Court that it is legal to fire a person for being transgender.

A brief was filed on Friday August 16 by the Justice Department arguing that transgender workers are not protected by federal civil rights law and can be fired because of their gender identity.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear three cases to determine whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination, applies to LGBT+ workers.

The brief submitted by Trump’s Justice Department pertains to one of those three cases: RG & GR Funeral Homes Inc vs Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in which transgender woman Aimee Stephens was fired after she transitioned.

Ms Stephens had reportedly presented as a man when she began working at the Michigan-based funeral home company in 2007. She was fired by the company’s owner Thomas Rost after she announced plans to transition.

Her firing was ruled as discriminatory by the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

‘Discrimination against employees because of their transgender status is illegal.’

“The unrefuted facts show that the funeral home fired Stephens because she refused to abide by her employer’s stereotypical conception of her sex,” judge Karen Nelson Moore said in the 6th Circuit’s decision.

“Discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII.

“It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex.”

In its request to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department is arguing that, when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, “the ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ was biological sex”.

“It did not encompass transgender status, which Stephens and the Sixth Circuit describe as a disconnect between an individual’s biological sex and gender identity,” the Justice Department claimed on Friday.

“In the particular context of Title VII – legislation originally designed to eliminate employment discrimination against racial and other minorities – it was especially clear that the prohibition on discrimination because of ‘sex’ referred to unequal treatment of men and women in the workplace.”

Alliance Defending Freedom, the right-wing legal group that petitioned the Supreme Court to hear Ms Stephens’ case, said the 6th Circuit had ‘redefined the term sex’ in Title VII to “mean something other than what Congress clearly intended”, reports NBC News.

The other two cases the Supreme Court has agreed to hear – Zarda vs Altitude Express and Bostock vs Clayton County – involve employees being fired due to their sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court will hear all three of these cases in the net term, which begins in October.

Chase Strangio, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Ms Stephens, argued that the case has implications beyond the trans community, as reported by the Huffington Post.

“People don’t realise that the stakes are extending not just to the trans and LGB communities, but every person who departs from sex stereotypes,” he told the Huffington Post.

“Women who want to wear pants in the workplace, men who want more childbearing responsibilities. Those protections are also in peril with the arguments advanced by the Trump administration presented at the Supreme Court.

“There isn’t a coherent way to carve out LGBT+ people without changing the standard that exists under the law.”

Gay Republican backs Trump.

The move from the Trump administration comes just a day after gay Republican group the Log Cabin Republicans announced it was endorsing the president for re-election, claiming he has followed through on changes that “benefit the LGBTQ community”.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Robert Kabel and Jill Homan of the group praised Trump for what they see as advances for LGBT+ rights under his leadership.

They also praised Trump for cutting taxes, which they claim have “benefited LGBTQ families and helped put food on their tables”.

More: supreme court, Transgender, Trump

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