Human rights activist: Ruling against trans funeral director “legal discrimination”

Aug 19, 2016

A person who wanted to transition from a male to female identity has lost a lawsuit against her former employer.

RG & GR Harris Funeral Home fired Aimee Stephens for planning to dress as a female at work.

The owner said he believes gender is an immutable, God-given gift.

Attorneys for Stephens say the ruling will make it nearly impossible to enforce any civil rights law, if an employer can say the law is against its religious beliefs.

Attorneys for the funeral home say the ruling is a victory for religious liberty, and a check on government intrusion.

Emily Dievendorf, president of the Lansing Association for Human Rights, joined Stateside today and said this ruling could lead to “pretty far-reaching implications” for both transgender people and others in the workplace.

"This is a clear attempt to ensure that trans people do not achieve equal rights anytime soon."

“Now that a decision has stated that you can ignore civil rights laws based on your own beliefs and essentially biases – since that’s what a lot of our beliefs translate into – that can be applied to any of the protected classes under our civil rights laws,” Dievendorf said.

In his decision, the federal judge noted that transgender people are not specifically protected under the civil rights act.

That’s even though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has interpreted Title Seven of the act to protect transgender people, Dievendorf said.

“He went back to the fact that we don’t have laws in place that specifically name trans people to say that this religious expression could be turned into legal discrimination, essentially,” she said.

This was a ruling by a federal judge. It’s a reminder that there are no federal or state laws protecting transgender people.

“This is a clear attempt to ensure that trans people do not achieve equal rights anytime soon,” Dievendorf said.


Emily Dievendorf is president of the Lansing Association for Human Rights.

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