Articles Posted in Gender Identity Discrimination

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WorldPride, organized by InterPride, is an event that promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other (LGBTQ+) issues on an international scale through parades, festivals, and other celebrations.  WorldPride has gone around 5 major cities in the world since its first parade in Rome, Italy, July 2000.  After 20 years of spreading pride and joy in Rome, Jerusalem, London, Toronto, and Madrid, WorldPride has finally arrived in New York City the last week of July 2019.

WorldPride NYC 2019 will be held in conjunction with Stonewall 50, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising of June 28, 1969, in which the modern LGBTQ Rights Movement began.

In the 1950s and 60s, police raids on gay bars were routine as they sought to arrest, punish, and oppress the gay community by enforcing an anti-gay legal system.  The marginalized, such as gay, transgenders, bisexuals and lesbians were arrested and publicly shamed for having a sexual orientation differ from heterosexuality.  For these individuals, simply being themselves was illegal, even in public places such as NYC’s Stonewall Inn. The gay community, however, stood united on June 28, 1969 and decided to no long endure the systemic mistreatment, rioting against the discriminatory police officers that arrived to put them in handcuffs.  What erupted from the Stonewall Uprising were protests and rebellion that catapulted the gay community into a liberation front, consisting of national awareness,  a New York City newspaper called Gay, Gay Activists Alliance,  Gay Pride marches, and gay rights groups in every American city.

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Last year, we reported on North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, better known as “HB 2.” HB 2, which was passed in March 2016, required North Carolina public schools and agencies to separate bathrooms by “biological sex,” preventing many transgender people from using the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. In the wake of the passage of HB 2, many companies reduced or withdrew their business in North Carolina, and musicians and speakers cancelled scheduled events in protest of the new law. The state was even drawn into conflict with the federal government when, in May 2016, the United States filed suit against the State of North Carolina and Pat McCrory—the state’s Republican governor at the time—on the grounds that HB 2’s “bathroom provision” violated several federal anti-discrimination statutes, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The widespread opposition to HB 2 caused a serious hit to North Carolina’s economy and reputation, and in the year and a half since the law was passed, a number of North Carolina politicians and activists have pushed to repeal it. In March 2017, North Carolina repealed HB 2 with the passage of HB 142. The new bill was hampered, however, by two significant concessions to Republican legislators: a provision stating that regulating “access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities” would be left to the state, and a provision prohibiting local governments from “enact[ing] or amend[ing] an ordinance regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodations.” These components of HB 142 mean that transgender North Carolinians remain vulnerable to discrimination; the state retains its power to control bathroom access, and local governments aren’t able to pass their own laws protecting LGBT constituents from discrimination in the workplace or public accommodations.

On October 18, 2017, Democratic North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued a new executive order and consent decree intended to combat discrimination in North Carolina, which he called an important step “toward fighting discrimination and enacting protections throughout state government and across our state.” The executive order prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, among other protected characteristics, in government agencies and government contracts—a major step for employees of the North Carolina state government or the more than 3,000 vendors who contract with it. The consent decree, which regulates how North Carolina’s executive agencies enforce HB 142 in their public facilities, allows transgender people to use restrooms in accordance with their gender identity.

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On October 5, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo to the heads of all federal government agencies and all U.S. attorneys, stating that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is now taking the position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or transgender status. The memo reverses the DOJ’s previous stance on the issue and runs contrary to the position taken by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as various federal appellate and district courts.

While Title VII explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, there has been heated debate in recent years over whether that prohibition includes discrimination against transgender workers. The status of legal protections for transgender employees is complicated: no federal law explicitly forbids discrimination against transgender people in the workplace, state and city employment protections vary widely, and the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to address the question of whether Title VII covers gender identity­–based discrimination. The EEOC views discrimination against transgender people as discrimination based on sex and therefore a violation of Title VII, but the EEOC’s interpretations of Title VII are not legally binding, and federal appellate and district courts have differed in their applications of the statute to transgender workers.

Until last week, the DOJ’s position on Title VII’s applicability to transgender people was consistent with that of the EEOC. Under the Obama administration, in December 2014, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a DOJ memo stating that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination encompassed discrimination on the basis of gender identity, as such discrimination unlawfully takes into account “sex-based considerations.” Last week’s memo, however, reverses that position. Sessions characterized the reversal as “a conclusion of law, not policy,” stating that, while Title VII “expressly prohibits discrimination ‘because of…sex,’” it does not prohibit discrimination “based on gender identity per se because the statute “does not refer to gender identity” explicitly. Sessions justified this distinction by claiming that the word “sex” is “ordinarily defined to mean biologically male or female,” and stated that, under the DOJ’s new interpretation, transgender people are covered by Title VII if they are discriminated against based on whether they are “biologically male or female,” but not if they are discriminated against specifically because they are transgender.

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Owen H. Laird and Walker G. Harman, Jr.

On Wednesday, President Trump and his administration took two major actions against LGBT rights: First, President Trump tweeted that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military; then, the Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a brief in an ongoing Second Circuit case, arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)—a major federal anti-discrimination statute—does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. These two actions clearly demonstrate Trump’s position on LGBT rights: He does not support them, and his actions are disturbing and intolerant. As Trump forces the LGBT community—and all of us—to take giant steps backward, we all need to bear arms (so to speak) to protect the rights of all those marginalized within the LGBT community.

Last year, President Obama instituted a new policy allowing transgender people to serve in the military. On Wednesday, President Trump, via Twitter, announced that transgender people would no longer be able to serve, claiming that the armed forces could not afford the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” supposedly caused by transgender people serving in the military. Trump provided no empirical support for his offensive statement. The backlash against Trump’s statement was swift, with Democrats and LGBT advocates swiftly decrying the decision. There are estimated to be anywhere between 5,000 and 15,000 transgender people currently serving in the U.S. military, and Trump’s announcement puts their careers at risk.

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The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently refused to dismiss Kate Lynn Blatt’s gender and disability discrimination claims in Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail, Inc. Blatt, a transgender woman, brought suit against her former employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that Cabela’s had discriminated against her based on her gender identity and her diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Being transgender does not necessarily involve a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Whereas a transgender person is someone whose gender identity differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth, gender dysphoria is a condition recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA), characterized by a “marked difference between [an individual’s] expressed/experienced gender and the gender others would assign [them],” which is present for at least six months and “causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

As the APA points out, being transgender or gender nonconforming is not a mental disorder, and since “[m]any transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling,” not all transgender people are diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Rather, gender dysphoria is characterized by gender identity–related distress, anxiety, and depression: “The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.” Treatments for gender dysphoria are focused on helping transgender people access the resources they need to transition, such as “counseling, hormone therapy, medical procedures and the social support.”

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By Edgar M. Rivera

On May 24, 2017, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff Brittany Tovar’s sex discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). The court held that Defendant Essentia Health’s denial of insurance coverage for Ms. Tovar’s son’s transition-related medical procedures did not state a claim for sex discrimination under Title VII, since Ms. Tovar did not suffer discrimination based on her own sex and therefore lacked statutory standing.

Ms. Tovar, a nurse practitioner, worked for Essentia Health from 2010 to 2016. During her employment at Essentia Health, she was enrolled in an employer-provided health insurance plan that also covered her teenage child, who is a transgender boy, meaning that he was designated female at birth but identifies as male. In 2014, doctors diagnosed Ms. Tovar’s son with gender dysphoria and recommended various treatments, including medications and gender reassignment surgery, for which Ms. Tovar sought coverage under her employer’s insurance plan.

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On Wednesday, President Trump rescinded protections implemented by the Obama administration which had, among other things, allowed transgender students to use the school restrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identities.

Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title IX) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs, but does not explicitly protect transgender individuals. Last May, the Obama administration issued guidance regarding transgender students to all public schools in the U.S. in a joint letter from the Departments of Justice and Education. The guidance stated that both departments interpret Title IX’s prohibition against sex discrimination as encompassing “discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status” and that the departments “treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations.” Effectively, the guidance required schools to treat transgender students the same as non-transgender students of the same gender for Title IX purposes—for example, schools could not subject transgender girls to different rules and policies than non-transgender girls—and prohibited schools from discriminating against students on the basis of transgender status.

In addition to requiring schools to “allow transgender students access to [bathrooms and locker rooms] consistent with their gender identity,” the letter addressed single-sex classes, gendered housing, athletics, and other sex-specific activities.  The guidance required schools to allow transgender students to participate in most sex-segregated activities in accordance with their gender identity. For example, a school could not prohibit a transgender boy from living in boys’ housing, nor could it exclude a transgender girl from a school dance because she planned to wear a dress.  The guidance did not change any applicable law, but instead “inform[ed] recipients about how the Departments evaluate whether covered entities are complying with their legal obligations” under Title IX. In other words, if schools refused to comply with the guidance, they could be at risk of losing federal funding.

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Last week, in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., the federal district court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled on summary judgment that a funeral home’s termination of a transgender employee did not violate Title VII because the employer was entitled to a religious accommodation under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”).

In October 2007, Aimee Stephens, started working at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. (the “Funeral Home”) as a funeral director and embalmer. On July 31, 2013, Ms. Stephens wrote a letter to the Funeral Home, in which she came out as transgender. In this letter, Ms. Stephens informed the Funeral Home that, as part of her transition from male to female, she planned to wear women’s clothing to work in accordance with the Funeral Home’s gendered dress code, which mandates that male employees wear a suit and tie and that female employees wear a skirt suit.

About two weeks later, Thomas Rost, Ms. Stephens’ supervisor and the owner of the Funeral Home, terminated Ms. Stephens’ employment explicitly because she intended to wear the skirt suit to work. Shortly afterward, Ms. Stephens filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, and the EEOC filed suit on her behalf.

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On April 13, we wrote about North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, more commonly known as “HB 2,” in a blog titled “North Carolina Passes a Controversial Law That Overturns City Anti–LGBT Discrimination Laws.” HB 2 establishes that public schools and public agencies are required to segregate restrooms by biological sex, defined by the statute as the sex listed on an individual’s birth certificate. Consequently, HB 2 effectively denies many transgender people the right to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity, as a transgender person’s gender presentation is likely to differ from the sex indicated by their birth certificate. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the most comprehensive and large-scale survey of transgender Americans to date, found that only 24% of respondents had been able to update their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity.

On March 23, HB 2 was passed in a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly (the first called by the state’s legislature in 35 years), where the bill was introduced, debated, and voted upon over the course of just 12 hours. On May 9, the United States filed suit against the state of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and the University of North Carolina and its Board of Governors, alleging that the bathroom regulation provision of HB 2 violates Title VII, Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

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Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves’ ruling in Barber v. Bryant enjoined a new Mississippi state law – House Bill 1523, or the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act” (“HB 1523”) – that would have gone into effect on July 1, 2016.  The court struck down HB 1523 on the grounds that it violated both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

HB 1523 authorized discrimination by businesses and public employees who asserted one of three “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions”: namely, the beliefs that marriage should be “the union of one man and one woman,” that sexual relations should only occur within a heterosexual marriage, and that a person’s gender is defined by their “anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.”

For instance, under HB 1523, an unmarried woman could be fired if she got pregnant, a healthcare provider could refuse to treat a transgender patient, or a state employee could refuse to sign a marriage license for a same-sex couple – and such discrimination would be lawful, as long as the discriminator maintained at least one of the aforementioned “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

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