Can a Fired Transgender Worker Sue for Job Discrimination?

In 2013, a funeral director who had been known as Anthony Stephens wrote to colleagues at a Michigan funeral home, asking for patience and support.

“What I must tell you is very difficult for me and is taking all the courage I can muster,” the letter said. “I have felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind, and this has caused me great despair and loneliness.”

“I will return to work as my true self, Aimee Australia Stephens, in appropriate business attire,” she wrote. “I hope we can continue my work at R. G. and G. R. Harris Funeral Homes doing what I always have, which is my best!”

Ms. Stephens had worked there for six years. Her colleagues testified that she was able and compassionate.

“He was a very good embalmer,” one said. “He was very, very thorough. Had obviously had a lot of practice prior to coming to the Harris Funeral Home. Families seemed very pleased with his work. He did a good job.”

Two weeks after receiving the letter, though, the home’s owner, Thomas Rost, fired Ms. Stephens. Asked for the “specific reason that you terminated Stephens,” Mr. Rost said: “Well, because he was no longer going to represent himself as a man. He wanted to dress as a woman.”

Mr. Rost also said he did not want to address Ms. Stephens as Aimee. “I’m uncomfortable with the name,” Mr. Rost said, “because he’s a man.”

The case went to court, and Ms. Stephens won in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati. Discrimination against transgender people, the court ruled, was barred by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex.

“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,” the court said. “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

by Adam Liptak, NYTimes.com, November 12, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

A Democratic House, Nation’s First Gay Governor

Control of Congress now split; LGBTQ community makes impressive strides

On a night when the Democratic Party achieved a net gain of somewhere between 30 and 35 seats in the US House of Representatives, wresting control from the Republicans and finally putting some check on President Donald Trump, the LGBTQ community enjoyed key victories, including the election of the nation’s first out gay governor and the defeat of an anti-transgender ballot initiative in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts referendum resulted from the efforts of anti-trans activists to repeal a 2016 law that guaranteed equal access to public accommodations regardless of gender identity. A yes vote upheld that law and garnered roughly 70 percent of the vote, after a hard-fought campaign.

In a written statement, Carol Rose, the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts said voters “reaffirmed our Commonwealth as a place that fiercely defends our basic values of dignity and respect for everyone. At a time when transgender rights are being threatened nationally, we absolutely must preserve the rights we have secured at the state level.”

In Colorado, Jared Polis, an out gay Democrat elected to Congress in 2008, was elected governor with a margin of about seven percentage points. Polis succeeds two-term Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper.

“Every Coloradan wants good schools, healthy communities, and more opportunity for the next generation,” Polis said in a written statement. “So the time is now to unite in our common purpose, rooted in our shared love for our home of Colorado, and move forward together, confident that what makes us unique isn’t just the boldness of our ideas — it’s the resilience and the spirit of Coloradans, who make change happen, who bring these bold ideas to life.”

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown, an out bisexual Democrat who took office in 2015 after her predecessor resigned and won a special election the following year, held on to her office, with a five percent margin over her Republican opponent.

In Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema, an out bisexual member of Congress first elected in 2012, trails her Republican opponent, Martha McSally, who was elected to the House two years later, by about 16,000 votes. According to CBS News, however, there are more than one million early ballot votes that have not yet been tallied, so it will be at least several days until that race is called.

The Democrats’ sweep of the House saw the election of at least four new LGBTQ representatives: Christopher Pappas, who will be New Hampshire’s first LGBTQ member of Congress; Angie Craig, Minnesota’s first out lesbian or gay person elected to the House after defeating Jason Lewis, an outspokenly anti-gay Republican representing suburban Minneapolis; Katie Hill, who defeated anti-gay California Republican Steve Knight; and Sharice Davids, who will be Kansas’ first out lesbian or gay member of Congress and the first Native American woman to serve there. (Gina Ortiz Jones trails Texas Republican incumbent Will Hurd by about 1,200 votes in unofficial returns, but that race has not yet been called.)

Gay City News, by Paul Schindler, November 8, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Trump Administration Eyes Defining Transgender Out of Existence

The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.

A series of decisions by the Obama administration loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender largely as an individual’s choice and not determined by the sex assigned at birth. The policy prompted fights over bathrooms, dormitories, single-sex programs and other arenas where gender was once seen as a simple concept. Conservatives, especially evangelical Christians, were incensed.trans trump

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The department argued in its memo that key government agencies needed to adopt an explicit and uniform definition of gender as determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.” The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

“This takes a position that what the medical community understands about their patients — what people understand about themselves — is irrelevant because the government disagrees,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, who led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in the Obama administration and helped write transgender guidance that is being undone.

The move would be the most significant of a series of maneuvers, large and small, to exclude the population from civil rights protections and roll back the Obama administration’s more fluid recognition of gender identity. The Trump administration has sought to bar transgender people from serving in the military and has legally challenged civil rights protections for the group embedded in the nation’s health care law.

Several agencies have withdrawn Obama-era policies that recognized gender identity in schools, prisons and homeless shelters. The administration even tried to remove questions about gender identity from a 2020 census survey and a national survey of elderly citizens.

By Erica L. Green, Katie Benner and Robert Pear, New York Times, October 21, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Stigma Against Gay People Can Be Deadly

L.G.B.T. people experience a range of social, economic and medical disparities that jeopardize their long-term health.

I’ve never been sure what to expect when meeting someone who’s just tried to take his own life. But I’ve learned to stop expecting anything.

Sometimes, the person in front of me barely speaks, staring right through me, lost in a deep catatonic depression. Sometimes he or she can’t stop talking, breathlessly describing what happened as if we’re gossiping at brunch after an hour of SoulCycle.LGBTQ

Yesterday, my patient, a 20-something graduate student, swallowed a jumble of unmarked pills, hoping to die, after his father told him never to come home again. Today, he greeted me with a soft smile, his delirium starting to clear, his heart beating normally again.

“Whoops,” he said.

He’d been a happy kid who aimed to please. He once felt so bad for lying about having done his homework before playing video games, he told me, that he’d grounded himself. Sociable but square, he didn’t drink until he was 21, even though he’d gone to a college with a reputation for partying. Deeply religious, he was gay but desperately wanted not to be.

Now his father’s disavowal pushed him over the edge, capping a string of stigmatizing experiences at home, at school and at church. He’d had enough.

For decades, we’ve known that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals experience a range of social, economic and health disparities — often the result of a culture and of laws and policies that treat them as lesser human beings. They’re more likely to struggle with poverty and social isolation. They have a higher risk of mental health problems, substance use and smoking. Sexual minorities live, on average, shorter lives than heterosexuals, and L.G.B.T. youth are three times as likely to contemplate suicide, and nearly five times as likely to attempt suicide.

Some of these disparities have interpersonal roots: social exclusion, harassment, internalized homophobia. But often they stem from an explicit denial of rights: same-sex marriage bans, employment discrimination, denial of federal benefits. Discrimination in any form can have serious health consequences: Sexual minorities living in communities with high levels of prejudice die more than a decade earlier than those in less prejudiced communities.

But civil rights advances and growing public acceptance of L.G.B.T. individuals in recent years are among the more transformative social changes in modern American history. And evidence increasingly suggests this shift has measurably improved health care access and health outcomes for L.G.B.T. populations.

The halting, patchwork nature of L.G.B.T. rights expansions across the country has allowed researchers to study the effects on health and well-being by comparing states that expanded rights to those that failed to introduce protections, or actively curtailed them. Since Vermont became the first state to formally recognize same-sex partnerships in 2000, many other states either legalized same-sex marriage, or conversely, passed constitutional amendments banning it — until the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges required all 50 states to recognize same-sex marriage.

By Dhruv Khullar, M.D., NYTimes.com, October 9, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

What does a Kavanaugh Court mean for the LGBT community?

What does a Kavanaugh Court mean for the LGBT community?  In short, a generation’s worth of challenges, dismissals and legitimized discrimination. 

What does a Kavanaugh Court mean for the LGBT community?  Like so many others, I dreaded this question.  I watched in painful anguish during the confirmation circus as the country wrestled with issues as varied and inflammatory as sexual assault, blatant perjury, white entitlement and gender bias.  The outcome was heartbreaking and, dare I say, demoralizing but hopefully the process will bring clarity and power to a growing movement of forward-thinking Americans who will not accept the dismissal of integrity and will stand for the ultimate legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

There is a very real possibility that the new “Kavanaugh” court will hear one of three cases from different Federal Circuit courts that address Federal anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community.  This issue may reach the court through a case called Bostock v. Clayton County Board of Commissioners.  This case will ask whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends the protections which already exist under the Act to gay and transgender litigants.  This is a key question to be asked because, while many states already do provide anti-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans, but there is no Federal standard.  To be fired from your job simply because you are gay or transgender strikes at the heart of the entire community and is exactly the type of protection that Kavanaugh has signaled he would not extend to our community.

What does a Kavanaugh court mean for the LGBT community?  It may mean that new cases, which touch on the holy grail of anti-gay opposition – religious freedom – offer the conservative court the ability to pay homage to the religious right, from whom they have received unwavering support.  We all know how the “right” has reacted to the courts extending protections to the LGBT community in the past.  Unfortunately, the pendulum is swinging back and because of the nature and timing of judicial nominations, it may take a generation to readjust.

We are looking at potential religious objection cases like the most recent Masterpiece Cake Shop case, which narrowly allowed a baker to refuse service to a gay couple.  The next set of cases may open the door to more blatant discrimination, all in the name of religion.

What does the Kavanaugh nomination mean for the LGBT community?  It means that, once again, we have to rise above the humiliating and successful political gamesmanship that kept Merrick Garland off the court and put Brett Kavanaugh on it.  The republican dishonesty and self-service that created our new court is truly appalling, but our first priority must be to vote out those who would continue to play this stacked deck against us. 

Power begets power and the republicans have been quite successful at winning in state races which allowed them to redraw legislative districts in their favor.  This redistricting has laid the foundation for what we are seeing today: unequal representation in congress, an electoral college that favors republicans, the ability to name judges to federal courts across the land and a deepening divide between the few with power and the majority with less and less.  Until we energize the majority of Americans who believe in affordable and comprehensive health care for all Americans, sensible gun regulation and equal treatment under the law (which truly is the majority of this country), we will continue to cede power to those who have quite effectively taken it from us.

If democrats win just one chamber of the legislature in November’s midterm elections, we will finally see a much needed check on the unfettered power of the current executive.  We may finally be able to investigate the long laundry list of outright violations of the law perpetrated by our President, his cabinet and our new Supreme Court Justice.  But none of this happens if we do not activate and stay engaged.  None of this will happen if we fail to reach out to others in a demonstration of true democratic partnership.  As a community, we must consolidate our political power with immigrants, women, African Americans, health care advocates, sensible gun regulation proponents.  In short, we must vote!

What does the Kavanaugh nomination mean for the LGBT community?  In the most immediate terms it means that we need to protect ourselves now.  If you are transgender, make sure that your correct gender is reflected on identification documents.  If you are a parent who has not had a court ordered establishment of parentage, get your second parent adoption.  If you are unmarried or are in a polyamorous relationship, do the basic estate planning that will protect your family unit in case the unexpected occurs. If you have family members who are unfamiliar your family, or other families like ours, reach out to them and tell them how their vote can directly affect your family.  Tell your story!

My nine year old son asked me why a picture of Brett Kavanaugh was on the cover of Gay City News, my go to source for NYC LGBT news.  I told him that he was going to be very important to the our community because he will decide cases that will affect our lives.  He asked, “do we like him?”  I said that I was a little afraid of how he would treat us.  Then my son said, “what if he was good to us.?”  “What if he made decisions that were good?”  I stopped my anxiety spiral  in that moment and realized whatever Kavanaugh does on the court, I still have my family and I still get to teach my son right from wrong.  My son is the my hope for our future and his ability to see possibility gives me great pride.

What does the Kavanaugh nomination mean for the LGBT community? We have had to fight for our rights before and we will have to continue to fight for the foreseeable future.  But if there is one thing I have learned from my experience in the trenches, it is this: you cannot rely on others to create your future.  Step one: vote in November.  Step 2: never give up.

By Anthony M. Brown, October 10, 2018 Time For Families

Contact Time For Families

Contact Form
* indicates required field

New Supreme Court Term Potentially Momentous for LGBT Rights

The Supreme Court begins its October 2018 Term, which runs through June 2019, on October 1.

During the week of September 24, the Supreme Court holds its “long conference,” during which the Justices consider the long list of petitions for review filed with the Court since last spring, and assembles its docket of cases for argument after those granted late last term are heard.  While there are several petitions involving LGBT-related issues pending before the Court, it is unlikely that there will be any announcement about these cases until late October or November at the earliest.Anthony Kennedy retirement

Three of the pending petitions raise one of the most hotly contested LGBT issues being litigated in the lower federal courts: Whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination because of an individual’s sex, can be interpreted to extend to claims of discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. One of the three cases also raises the question whether an employer with religious objections gender transition has a defense under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Another petition presents the question whether a judge who has religious objections to conducting same-sex marriages has a 1st Amendment right to refuse to do so.

Although many state civil rights laws ban such discrimination, a majority of states do not, so the question whether the federal law applies is particularly significant in the Southeast and Midwest, where state courts are generally unavailable to redress such discrimination.

With President Donald J. Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat vacated by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Jr.’s, retirement, which was effective on July 31, petitions pending at the Supreme Court took on heightened significance while the Senate confirmation process was taking place. The Senate Republican leadership had hoped to speed the process so that Trump’s appointee would be seated on the Court by the time the term began on October 1, but accusations of long-ago sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh have caused the Judiciary Committee’s vote to be delayed.  Meanwhile, the eight-member Court had to confront the question during their long conference of whether to grant review on cases as to which the justices were likely to be evenly divided, when they were unsure when the ninth seat would be filled and who would fill it.  As of the end of September, they had already scheduled oral arguments on cases granted last spring running through the first week of November.

ArtLeonardObservations.com. September 24, 2018, by Art Leonard

Click here to read the entire article.

 

The Queen’s Cousin Makes History with First Same-Sex Royal Wedding

The intimate ceremony quietly took place over the weekend.

Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin Lord Ivar Mountbatten made history over the weekend as the first royal to have a same-sex wedding when he wed his now-husband, James Coyle. The couple quietly tied the knot in Devon in front of family and friends, Cosmopolitan U.K. reports.

It’s unclear if familiar royals like Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Charles, or the sovereign herself were present. (The Cambridges were seen at a friend’s weddingon Saturday.)

Although Lord Ivar’s wedding to James took place out of the public eye (unlike Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s highly publicized nuptials in May), he did share details and photos from the intimate ceremony on Instagram this morning.

“Well we did it finally!” he wrote in the caption. “It was an amazing day despite the miserable British weather.” The images show the grooms wearing velvet jackets for the occasion, with James in deep blue and Lord Ivar in emerald green.

The couple was married by Trish Harrogate, chief Registrar for Devon, “who set the perfect but lighthearted tone for what is a serious occasion,” Lord Ivar added. Music was provided by the Bristol’s Teachers Rock Choir.

Lord Ivar previously married Penelope “Penny” Vere Thompson in 1994, but they divorced on amicable terms in 2011. Five years later, he publicly came out as gay. They have three daughters together, ranging from ages 15 to 22, USA Today reports. The whole family was present at the wedding—and Penny was the one who walked Ivar down the aisle.

Harpers Bazaar by Erica Gonzales, September 24, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Compensation for Canadian Sperm And Egg Donors Will Help LGBTQ Couples Build Families

It’s currently illegal to pay, offer to pay or advertise payment for sperm, eggs, or surrogacy services in Canada.

The Canadian government is considering amendments to the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRA) that will benefit the LGBTQ community.

On May 29, Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather introduced a private members bill to the House of Commons. He is seeking decriminalization of surrogacy services and consideration of reasonable compensation for egg and sperm donation in Canada.canada

It’s currently illegal to pay, offer to pay or advertise payment for sperm, eggs, or surrogacy services. Under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act of 2004, any compensation beyond reasonable expenditures is a criminal offence punishable by 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. What constitutes a legitimate expense has yet to be clearly defined by the government, leading to criticism of the Act by many doctors and legal experts.

Housefather’s proposed change will affect many Canadians who don’t have their own eggs or sperm to start a family: single women, sterile men, older women who no longer produce viable eggs and people who carry genetic diseases they do not want to pass on.

It will also be of significant importance to LGBTQ couples.

As a fertility doctor, I know that having children is important to LGBTQ couples. However, most require the help of a fertility clinic to obtain donor sperm or eggs.

The intention of sections 6 and 7 of the Act were to prevent commercialization of donors and surrogates in Canada. In reality, the criminalization of potential donors has led to a complete lack of egg and sperm donors willing to provide their reproductive material for free. Donor sperm and donor egg banks are virtually non-existent in Canada. Surrogacy services are only available through recruiting agencies that operate in a “grey area” of the Act.

The Masterpiece Cake Shop Decision – A Narrowly Decided Cautionary Tale

The Masterpiece Cake Shop Decision demonstrated the Supreme Court of the United States threading the religious needle.   

In Masterpiece Cake Shop, while making it a point to explain that no determinations were actually being made on whether people with religious convictions can openly discriminate against gay people, or, more alarmingly, whether gay people deserve protections against such discrimination at all, the Supreme Court went out of their way to emphasize the importance of respect for religion.

 

gay rightsDon’t get me wrong, I have great respect for most religious belief.  My family holds hands and says what we are thankful for before every meal. We acknowledge the need for divine intervention with friends and family who are dealing with health issues.  We have ingrained just such a respect in our son to be tolerant of others, even those who would mock and deride our family just because it has two dads.

 

However, most Americans do not take the time to parse Supreme Court decisions to get to what the Justices are actually saying and, with the Masterpiece Cake Shop Decision, the message most people will hear is that religious beliefs now trump the dignity and equality of the LGBTQ community.

 

I feel the need to explain what I interpreted as the main message of The Masterpiece Cake Shop decision. In the majority decision, Justice Kennedy, the author of almost every positive gay rights decision out of the high court, gave short shrift to a complete analysis of the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion claims which strike to the heart of this decision. He did, however, along with the majority of the court, focus on the treatment that the baker received from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

 

masterpiece cake shop decisionJustice Kennedy held that, “When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered the case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.  In other words, because of the Commission’s original treatment of the baker’s claim, no matter whether the result of their analysis was correct, the process was tainted from the start and therefore the holdings of all subsequent courts agreeing that the baker violated the rights of the petitioning gay couple, who, as Justice Ginsburg stated in her dissent,  “simply requested a wedding cake: They mentioned no message or anything else distinguishing the cake they wanted to buy from any other wedding cake Phillips (the Respondent) would have sold.”  But because the process was tainted with anti-religious bias, the underlying discrimination was no longer relevant.  

 

Because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission “showed hostility” toward the baker and his beliefs, that in and of itself, “cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of the … claim.”  Even if the Commission was right in their determination that impermissible discrimination existed, they weren’t adequately respectful to religion.  Thus the message that religion is more important than discrimination may be misinterpreted.

 

I have been searching for a meaning behind this seemingly incorrect finding.  Many of the greatest LGBT legal minds have attempted to make the distinctions in this decision that would stave off its potential future anti-gay wake of behavior and court reaction to that behavior.  This quote is a bit long but captures the proverbial threaded needle. Mary Bonauto, the civil rights director of GLAD and who argued the Obergefell marriage case before the Supreme Court in 2015 said:

“… this limited ruling provides no basis for this Bakeshop or other entities covered by anti-discrimination laws to refuse goods and services in the name of free speech or religion.

The Court was mindful of how far adrift we could go if every individual could apply his or her religious beliefs to every commercial transaction.  The Court contrasted permission for a clergy person to refuse to marry a couple as an exercise of religious belief, on the one hand, with the unacceptable “community-wide stigma” that would befall gay people if there was a general constitutional right to refuse to provide goods and services.”

I fear that this distinction will not be made by those who are less invested in understanding how these cases actually affect the lives of LGBTQ individuals, couples and families. My concern is for the families out there who now are questioning the legal certainty of their families, or whether their families will receive equal treatment in courts of less gay friendly jurisdictions.  We are, after all, a portable nation and our families are everywhere. 

 

While this decision does not actually give license to shop owners to deny gay people services, it is important to note that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is still legal in 28 states.

 

At the risk of sounding like a lawyer, full disclosure – I am a lawyer, this case should serve as a wake up call that nothing can be taken for granted.  If you have put off doing your estate planning, do it now.  If you are a religious person, please pray that Justices Kennedy, Breyer and Ginsburg live long and healthy lives because these decisions can turn on a dime once right wing conservatives attain an indisputable majority on the court.  If you have questioned about whether you should get a second or step parent adoption, do it now. If you have legal questions about your immigration status, or that of your partner or spouse, find out about it now.

 

While my sincere hope is that more cases like this, with better fact patterns, will ultimately force the court to answer the questions that we all thought would be addressed in the Masterpiece cake Shop decision, namely whether religious “free speech” trumps anti-discrimination protection for LGBTQ people, until that time, we cannot sit idly by while others find solace and fortitude in their own anti-gay beliefs, whether religiously held or not.  

 

Anthony M. Brown, Time For Families – June 5, 2018

My Family’s Story

My husband Gary and I were able to share our family’s story with Robin and Jaimie of the hit podcast, If These Ovaries Could Talk.

 We spoke about being a known donor, having our son with a known egg donor and gestational carrier, as well as our commitment to inviting others to get to know us through honest question and answer.  Anthony Brown

This podcast is really important.  Not only are Jaimie and Robin helping others to have their families, they are demysifying the process and helping others to know that our families are just like theirs.

Go to www.ovariestalk.com for information and you can download their podcast on all podcast platforms.

Click here to listen to our episode, “They Met at the Disco.”