FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 18, 2016

TLDEF Denounces Federal Court Ruling in Favor of Michigan Funeral Home that Fired Employee for Being Transgender


New York, NY - Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) condemns a federal court ruling in favor of a Garden City, Michigan funeral home that fired an employee for being transgender. The court ruled that the funeral home did not break the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination when it terminated Amiee Stephens, a woman who asked to dress in women’s business attire on the job. The decision in EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes was announced today.

The funeral home director stated that he believed that he “would be violating God’s commands” if he were to permit one of the Funeral Home’s funeral directors “to deny their sex while acting as a representative of [the Funeral Home].” In his ruling U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox said in part: “The court finds that the funeral home has met its initial burden of showing that enforcement of Title VII, and the body of sex-stereotyping case law that has developed under it, would impose a substantial burden on its ability to conduct business in accordance with its sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Statement from TLDEF Executive Director Jillian Weiss

“This decision is a major setback for transgender rights and sends a chilling message about the implications of the Hobby Lobby case, which exempts closely-held companies from particular laws if they have a religious objection. The ruling contradicts years of court precedents protecting transgender individuals under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“In ruling that an employer can force its employee to wear ‘gender neutral’ clothing because of the employer's' religious beliefs, the federal court has ignored both Supreme Court and appeals court rulings that correctly understand gender discrimination to be an illegal form of sex discrimination.

“We cannot go back to the days in which people could be forced to conform to employers’ gender stereotypes in order to keep their jobs. This ruling shows the dangers inherent in so-called religious exemptions that create enormous loopholes, threatening equality laws that protect vulnerable people. We hope this decision is overturned on appeal.”

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