Trump Administration Argues Firing People For Being Transgender Is Legal

The Trump administration has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a Michigan funeral home that fired a longtime employee for coming out as transgender and beginning her transition.

The Trump administration has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a Michigan funeral home that fired a longtime employee for coming out as transgender and beginning her transition.

Aimee Stephens worked for Harris Funeral Homes for five years before she began to transition in 2012.

Saying she was “violating God’s commands,” fired Stephens two weeks later.

Stephens is suing the funeral home saying she experienced sex discrimination the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It is the Trump administration’s position that transgender people can be fired just for being trans.

More from Dominic Holden at Buzzfeed News:

The Justice Department’s brief on Friday contends the word refers to a person’s “biological sex” and, further, that transgender discrimination isn’t addressed by a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that found Title VII bans sex stereotyping.

“Title VII does not prohibit discrimination against transgender persons based on their transgender status,” says a filing by the Justice Department, adding, “It simply does not speak to discrimination because of an individual’s gender identity or a disconnect between an individual’s gender identity and the individual’s sex.”

The counterargument from LGBTQ advocates and several lower courts, however, is that the intent of lawmakers does not limit a law’s reach, but rather its meaning is defined by the statute’s plain text. They say anti-transgender discrimination can result from a person defying traditional sex stereotypes or because the person transitioned from one sex to another — and thus, it is inherently a type of sex discrimination.

The case at issue is one of three currently before the court about the rights of LGBTQ workers under Title VII — and the only one concerning a transgender worker.

The Trump administration maintains that when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was authored, the idea of transgender people wasn’t present in the “ordinary public meaning of ‘sex'” as biological sex.

But here’s the double-standard: if you can only apply laws as what people knew or understood at the time the were written, that would mean military assault-style weapons would not be protected under the 2nd Amendment because the Founding Fathers didn’t know such weapons would ever exist. And that’s just the beginning.

Stephens’ legal team maintains the plain text of Title VII addresses “sex” discrimination. And it’s impossible to consider her being transgender without taking into account the concept of her sex.

SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in the case on Oct. 8, along with two additional cases that address whether sexual orientation discrimination is protected by Title VII.

News Round-Up: April 9, 2019

• InstaHunk Thara (above) is getting pumped up for the summer circuit (and I don't mean weight training).

Some news items you might have missed:

• InstaHunk Thara (above) is getting pumped up for the summer circuit (and I don’t mean weight training).

• Quartz reports “former agency officials,” said White House adviser Stephen Miller would leak the monthly number of immigrants apprehended at the border to the Washington Examiner, who would then publish a story about the high numbers.

He would then print out the story and give it to Donald Trump. After seeing the story, Trump would then “pick up the phone and blast (Homeland Secretary) Nielsen.

• FX has announced that the second season of Pose will premiere June 9 at 9pm. The network also confirmed that the second season will time jump to 1990 with vogueing about to the day Madonna released her music video for “Vogue,” causing the ball culture to “reevaluate their goals.”

• Rosie O’Donnell says she greatly regrets giving Ladies Who Punch author Ramin Setoodeh 20 minutes of her time. In those minutes, she revealed she was sexually abused by her father, that she had “a little bit of a crush” on former colleague Elisabeth Hasselbeck and described working with Whoopi Goldberg as “The worst experience I’ve ever had on live television.”

• A tire company in Colorado is paying a transgender man $60,000 and writing a letter of apology after it settled a sex discrimination lawsuit.

• Don’t miss the season finale of Schitt’s Creek on Wednesday at 10 p.m. on POP.

[Spoiler alert] Last week’s episode gave us quite the moment:

Congress Moves To Block Trump Ban On Transgender Soldiers

As the Trump administration continues to push for a ban on transgender military service members, new legislation is being introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to allow open service by trans soldiers.

The Washington Post reports that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate along with Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Calling out President Trump for the proposed ban, which was unceremoniously tweeted out in July 2017, Gillibrand said in a statement, “President Trump’s ban on transgender service members is discrimination, it undermines our military readiness, and it is an insult to the brave patriotic transgender Americans who choose to serve in our military.”

“We should end this discriminatory ban for good and ensure our transgender service members can continue to do their jobs, serve with dignity and protect our country,” she added.

Gillibrand recently announced she making a run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

The legislation would ban the Pentagon from discharging any currently serving trans soldiers only on the basis of their gender identity. Additionally, new recruits could not be turned away from enlisting based only on their gender identity.

A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by California Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier. Co-sponsoring the bill in the House were Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md), Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and John Katko (R-NY).

Last month, the Supreme Court issued a stay of injunction on two lawsuits that blocked the ban. The policy hasn’t gone into effect yet as the last lawsuit is still being appealed in Maryland.

While the House version could very well pass, the Republican majority in the Senate pretty much ensures the legislation will be dead in the water there.

However, even if the bills passed in both chambers, it would land on Donald Trump’s desk where he is sure to veto the legislation.

Both Speier and Gillibrand invited trans soldiers to attend the State of the Union address this week as their guest to highlight the issue.

In related news, one of the highest-ranking officers in the California National Guard announced the state would not discharge trans soldiers from it’s ranks.

LGBT advocacy groups praised the bills:

News Round-Up: October 24, 2018

Some news items you might have missed:

• The above pic was sent to me over the weekend. I just enjoy the view… #woof

The New York Times reports it’s very possible China may be listening in on the Donald’s personal calls as his iPhone is not a ‘secure’ method of communication.

• The Justice Department today told the U.S. Supreme Court that businesses can discriminate against transgender workers based on their gender identity without violating federal law.

• Republican nominee for Georgia governor, and current Secretary of State, Brian Kemp was caught telling supporters at a paid campaign event that his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams’ voter turnout operation “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote,” according to audio obtained by Rolling Stone.

• At a candidate forum in Kentucky this week, anti-LGBT County Clerk Kim Davis told voters (with a straight face) that she “did not treat anyone unfairly” when she chose to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses after the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. #liar

• 20-year-old Swedish singer and songwriter Zara Larsson drops her first new single, “Ruin My Life,” since her 2017 debut album, So Good.

The award-winning multi-platinum pop artist holds the distinction of being “the second most-streamed debut on Spotify by a female artist ever,” eclipsing 5 billion streams.

I’ve previously written about Zara and her gorgeous 2017 collaboration with Clean Bandit, “Symphony.” Check the new single out below.

6th Circuit Court Of Appeals Rules “Religious Freedom” Doesn’t Allow For Trans Discrimination

In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) doesn’t allow for transgender discrimination in the workplace.

In a 49-page opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote that R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan “engaged in unlawful discrimination” against transgender employee Aimee Stephens under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964.

From The Washington Blade:

In essence, the Sixth Circuit establishes two milestones with the decision.

First, it explicitly concludes discrimination against transgender workers is sex discrimination, and unlawful under Title VII.

Second, it makes clear religious freedom as outlined under RFRA doesn’t supersede Title VII’s prohibition on employment discrimination.

The case, EEOC v. Harris Funeral Homes, began in 2013 when Harris Funeral Homes fired Stephens, who has worked there for six years, after she announced that she would transition. The basis for the termination was that by dressing as a women, Stephens would violate the dress code for the business and that would place a substantial burden on the religious beliefs of the funeral home’s owner, Thomas Rost.

In her reasoning for the decision, Moore first establishes anti-transgender discrimination is sex discrimination. Although the Sixth Circuit in the 2004 ruling of Smith v. City of Salem determined sex-stereotyping amounts to sex discrimination, the court had never before ruled anti-trans discrimination is unlawful.

The decision sends the case back to the lower court that ruled the funeral home did have the right to terminate Stephens under RFRA,.

The ruling also represents a loss for Attorney Jeff Sessions. Although the federal government wasn’t a party to the case, Sessions issued a memo asserting transgender people aren’t covered under Title VII despite legal precedent.

News Round-Up: January 18, 2018

(Image via photographer Robin MacDonald)

Some news items you might have missed:

• It’s always such a quandry getting dressed for the gym (above) – sneakers or no sneakers? How about just mimosas!

• Log Cabin Republicans have shared a congratulatory letter from Donald Trump on their 40th anniversary just a day after Trump proclaimed Tuesday “Religious Freedom Day.” It comes as no surprise the proclamation was full of anti-LGBT dog-whistles.

• Insurance giant Aetna will pay $17 million to settle a lawsuit after mailing out envelopes that accidentally revealed thousands of patients’ HIV status.

• The young 22-year-old writer of the Aziz Ansari “Revenge Porn” article has responded to criticisms of the piece by flipping out on Twitter.

• Imagine opening a package expecting to see your gorgeous printed wedding invitations only to find a pamphlet entitled, “Understanding Temptation: Fight the good fight of the faith.” That’s what happened to this gay couple.

• Donald Trump will soon announce new guidelines that would allow healthcare providers to deny LGBT, and especially, transgender patients and others critical care in the name of religion.

• I know, I know – no one wants to see hunky UK gymnasts literally flipping into their clothes… (But if you did, watch below).

(h/t JoeMyGod)

Log Cabin Republicans Aren’t So Sweet On Trump After Transgender Military Ban

After calling Donald Trump a “do no harm guy” in the past, the Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo via press release in response to President Trump’s newly-announced ban on transgender service members in the U.S. military:

This smacks of politics, pure and simple. The United States military already includes transgender individuals who protect our freedom day in and day out. Excommunicating transgender soldiers only weakens our readiness; it doesn’t strengthen it.

The president’s statement this morning does a disservice to transgender military personnel and reintroduces the same hurtful stereotypes conjured when openly gay men and women were barred from service during the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ era.

As an organization that led the charge against that hateful policy, Log Cabin Republicans remains equally committed to standing up for transgender military personnel who put their lives on the line to keep us free.

Politico: House Repubs Wanted To Stop Military-Funded Trans Surgeries, Trump Jumped The Shark

According to Politico, today’s transgender ban in the military by President Trump came about because House Republicans went to Trump to stop the military from paying for transgender’s gender reassignment surgeries. Trump apparently jumped the shark.

A handful of House Republicans threatened funding for Trump’s Mexican wall. They went around Defense Secretary Mattis to Trump asking him to do something about the military funded surgeries, and instead got all trans military booted.

“There are several members of the conference who feel this really needs to be addressed,” senior House Appropriations Committee member Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said Tuesday. “This isn’t about the transgender issue; it’s about the taxpayer dollars going to pay for the surgery out of the defense budget.”

The president’s directive, of course, took the House issue a step beyond paying for gender reassignment surgery and other medical treatment. House Republicans were never debating expelling all transgender troops from the military.

“This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” a senior House Republican aide said in an email. The source said that although GOP leaders asked the White House for help on the taxpayer matter specifically, they weren’t expecting — and got no heads up on — Trump’s far-reaching directive.

Las Vegas: Transgender Woman Denied Entrance To Ladies Restroom At New York-New York Hotel

Katie Charm (via Instagram)

A transgender woman from San Francisco, visiting Las Vegas this past week, was blocked from using a women’s bathroom at New York-New York Hotel.

While attending a performance of the Cirque du Soleil production Zumanity, which ironically celebrates diversity, Katie Charm used the women’s restroom before the show began.

But later, when she returned to use the same restroom during the performance,  New York-New York staff blocked her from entering the restroom again.

Unicorn Booty interviewed Charm and shares her story:

“They formed a literal barrier in the hallway blocking me from using it,” she tells us. “The first manager was unbelievable. He was like, ‘Well, look at you, look at what you’re wearing.’ I was wearing a woman’s baby doll tee and shorts, by the way. I was like, ‘I’m a trans woman! I have boobs even.’ I asked to speak to his manager.”

“I asked for a refund and the manager was like,’Why in the world would we give you a refund?’ I had to leave because I became too emotional. We missed the end of the show.”

Charm explains the fear and self-doubt she has had to overcome since transitioning.

“I don’t know if you understand how scary it is for a newly transitioning person to use a women’s room,” she explains. “So afraid at any second to be called out and harassed for not belonging. So scared of those macho assholes waiting outside to hurt you for daring to use the bathroom next to their wife.”

“The titanic mountains of self-doubt you have to overcome just to feel OK being there. Months and months of fighting thoughts, “Do I really belong here? Am I a bad person for just wanting to pee in peace. The crippling self-doubt versus the absolute terror of going to the men’s room. After a few months of transition, you begin smelling like a girl, and people give you scary looks in the men’s room. It was a nightmare for all [the beginning] of 2017. It was a nightmare I finally felt like I had conquered.”

Charm shared with Unicorn Booty that she has been taking hormones for seven months, and says, “I know I don’t pass, that I’m a thousand miles from ever ‘passing,’ even though I’ve been on hormones seven months now. But just because I’m an ugly woman doesn’t mean I should be subject to ID search to use the bathroom. I shouldn’t need to ‘pass’ or be pretty to be treated as a valid female.”

Charm added that she felt she was “confronted” in at least 50% of the restrooms she used in Las Vegas.

It’s important to note that in 2011, the Nevada legislature passed, and Gov. Sandoval signed into law, SB 331 which outlawed discrimination based on gender identity and expression regarding public accommodations.

According to reports, those who denied Charm entrance to the bathroom were New York-New York employees, not Cirque du Soleil employees.

MGM Resorts posted this statement on Katie’s Instagram:

MGM Resorts International strives to create a safe and inclusive environment for our LGBTQ guests. Under our policy, guests who are transgender may use the restroom of the gender they associate with. If you were not allowed access to the restroom of your choice, we would very much like an opportunity to address this matter with you directly. Inclusion is a bedrock value of MGM Resorts and we welcome the opportunity to make this right.

I’m not aware of any other public statement by MGM Resorts on the incident.

I would like to know whether the employees were addressed regarding how they mishandled the incident considering the company’s policy is to allow trans people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Unicorn Booty reports that since the incident MGM Resorts have issued an apology to Charm and offered her a refund.

Cirque du Soleil issued this statement:

We regret the incident experienced by one of our audience members on July 11 at New York-New York. Diversity and equality for every individual are foundational values of Cirque du Soleil, and our show Zumanity specifically celebrates diversity and love in all forms.