A conservative legal organization thinks they’ve got an argument that will convince liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to vote against workplace rights for LGBT individuals.
The case currently before the court concerns a transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, who was fired from her job at a funeral home in Michigan after she came out as transgender and said she would begin to wear women’s clothing.
“What I must tell you is very difficult for me and is taking all the courage I can muster,” Stephens wrote in a letter to her coworkers and employer. “I have felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind, and this has caused me great despair and loneliness.”
After having worked there for six years, the funeral home’s owner, Thomas Rost, fired Stephens.
When asked the “specific reason that you terminated Stephens,” Rost said: “Well, because he was no longer going to represent himself as a man. He wanted to dress as a woman.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued on Stephens behalf and won in front of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The funeral home then appealed in the case stylized as EEOC v. R.G. &. G.R. Harris Funeral Homes.
The Sixth Circuit’s 2017 opinion in favor of Stephens was the first time a federal appeals court had concluded that transgender bias is considered sex discrimination under the landmark Title VII provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Title VII does not explicitly protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but courts have increasingly used the statute to protect LGBTQ rights and it is currently the official position of the EEOC that “allegations of [workplace] discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex.”
The funeral home is represented by the Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF), a far-right Christian non-profit largely dedicated to pro-life and anti-gay legal challenges.
John Bursch is the vice president of appellate advocacy and also serves as senior counsel with the ADF.
During a symposium hosted by the ADF on Monday, Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson caught wind of one argument the conservative group is apparently planning to use before the Supreme Court this fall.
“I think there’s a reasonable possibility that [Ginsburg] could look at that and say, you know what, this is going to destroy [all] that I worked for,” Bursch told the crowd as he described a case in which a federal court ruled against an FBI trainee who complained–on Title VII grounds–that men were expected to do more pushups than women.
“If ADF actually thinks RBG is going to reason in this manner,” civil rights lawyer Sasha Samberg-Champion noted, “they are high on their own supply.”
[image via screengrab/CNN]