Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Georgia Transgender Woman Wins Appeal Based on Discriminatory Gender-Stereotyping

On Tuesday the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold a court ruling stating that Vandy Beth Glenn was illegally fired from her position as a legislative editor in the Georgia General Assembly after informing her employer that she would be transitioning from male to female. Glenn sued the state on the grounds of sex-based discrimination in 2007, and won her case in 2010. The ruling was appealed to the 11th Circuit Court which heard the case last Thursday.

After only a few short days, the three-judge panel on Tuesday unanimously upheld the 2010 ruling which stated Glenn was wrongfully fired. The panel concluded that the Equal Protection Clause was violated, stating that Glenn was discriminated against on the basis of gender stereotyping: “The question here is whether discriminating against someone on the basis of his or her gender non-conformity constitutes sex-based discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause…We hold that it does.”

The decision is a powerful one which may allow for more sex-based discrimination cases in the future. As the panel stated in their written statement:
An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender non-conformity. Because these protects are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual. The nature of the discrimination is the same; it may differ in degree but not in kind, and the discrimination on the basis is a form of sex-based discrimination that is subject to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause.
The panel included a diverse group of judges: Senior Judge Phyliss Kravitch was the first woman appointed to a federal bench in the Southeast, Judge William H. Pryor has been known for his notoriously anti-LGBT court decisions, and Judge Rosemary Barkett, dubbed the “activist judge,” was the first female, first Hispanic, and first Arab-American judge within the Florida Supreme Court. These unique backgrounds make the unanimous decision especially note-worthy.

Though the state could still appeal Tuesday’s decision to the full 11th Circuit Court of the Supreme Court, Glenn feels “giddy” about the 3-0 vote in her favor and believes the “end of the tunnel is in sight.”

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