Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn, who goes by Vandy Beth, is a transgender woman who was fired from her job editing legislation for the Georgia General Assembly Office of Legislative Council when she informed her supervisor that she would be transitioning from male to female in 2007. Legislative Council Sewell Brumby conceded to the court that Vandy Beth's "intended feminine appearance" was the reason for the termination.
The federal District Court ruled that termination to be a violation of the Constitutions's Equal Protection guarantee and discriminated against on the basis of her failure to conform to sex stereotypes. The state appealed the case to the 11th Circuit.
The decision is now in. Writing for the unanimous panel that included Judge William Pryor (appointed by W) and Judge Phyllis Kravitz (Carter), Judge Rosemary Barkett (Clinton) wrote:
An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender-nonconformity. Because these protections are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual...A person is defined as transgender precisely because of the perception that his or her behavior transgresses gender stereotypes.
The opinion goes on to add:
We conclude that a government agent violates the Equal Protection Clause's prohibition on sex-based discrimination when he or she fires a transgender or transsexual employee because of his or her gender non-conformity.
The court could not have been more clear: It is unfair and illegal to fire transgender employees because their appearance or behavior transgress gender stereotypes. Employers should take note of this important ruling.
--Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta
That's a ruling that is certain to snag the undies of some of our detractors. We already have some of them declaring that treating us equally is absurd.
Case in point: a Macy's employee in San Antonio was fired for failing to conform with Macy's anti-discrimination policy. Natalie Johnson objected when a transwoman used a fitting room reserved for women. Johnson believes that she was wrongly terminated because of her religious beliefs, although it is very hard to make the case that discrimination against transpeople is a religious belief since we are not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, outside of the stories of eunuchs, specifically the Ethiopian Eunuch (Matthew 26-40), which is a story that in pro-eunuch, not anti.
Be that as it may, Johnson has gained the backing of the Liberty Council in her fight against the store policy.
Macy’s does not comment on personnel matters. At Macy’s we recognize and appreciate the diversity of our customers and associates.
--Melissa Goff, Macy's regional spokesperson
Macy’s has essentially opened women’s dressing rooms to every man.
--Mathew Staver, Liberty Council founder
I personally don't believe in transgenders. These are just people that are mentally confused.
Of course, if I were to proclaim, "I personally don't believe in Christians. These are just people who are trying to change a fictional book into reality," then I would be labeled a bigot. Ms. Johnson apparently gets a pass on that from too many quarters.
We have to begin to ask ourselves, are we really doing this because we are afraid or are we just practicing hate because that's what we were taught?
A quote from Secretary Clinton seems appropriate here.
Universal human rights include freedom of expression and freedom of belief, even if our words or beliefs denigrate the humanity of others. Yet, while we are each free to believe whatever we choose, we cannot do whatever we choose, not in a world where we protect the human rights of all.