The brief challenges the legal rights of transgender adults to equal employment.
In defiance of two decades of federal case law, officials from sixteen states have asked the Supreme Court to declare transgender people have zero employment protections under the law.
In an amicus brief filed with the Court late last week, the Attorneys General of 13 states and the Governors of three others asked the Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court’s ruling that transgender people are protected from employment discrimination by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in employment.
Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of Aimee Stephens, a Michigan funeral home employee who was fired from her job of six years after she came out as transgender. Ms. Stephens rightfully filed a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who found her dismissal was by definition discrimination on the basis of sex.
The Sixth Circuit ruled, as it had previously in 2004 and 2005, that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act applies to anti-transgender bias. In the words of the Sixth Circuit’s ruling in Ms. Stephens’ case, “it is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex.” Over three dozen federal courts have ruled similarly over the last two decades.
According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, one in five transgender people have faced employment discrimination because they are transgender. According to estimates by the Williams Institute, the 16 states in the brief have a combined population of over 331,000 transgender adults - or one quarter of the U.S. transgender population.
Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality, condemned the brief filed last week:
“This brief is a political attack on the humanity of transgender people. It ignores decades of law and the realities faced by transgender workers across this country. Ms. Stephens’ case is the textbook definition of sex discrimination, and court after court has already shown this to be true. All Americans deserve a fair shot at their jobs, and the desperation of officials from these 16 states to legalize discrimination is despicable.
“The Attorneys General and Governors who filed this brief are acting in a complete state of ignorance. To beg the Supreme Court to issue a sweeping decision overturning decades of precedent—all in the name of making it legal to fire people like Ms. Stephens—is nothing short of a moral failure to represent the needs of the people who deserve their trust.”