HRC Blog

Federal Appeals Court Rules Firing of Transgender State Worker Violates U.S. Constitution

Post submitted by Brian Moulton, Former HRC Legal Director

Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta ruled unanimously that the Georgia Legislature violated the U.S. Constitution when it fired a transgender woman after she announced her intent to transition on the job.  The plaintiff, Vandy Beth Glenn, lost her job of more than two years with the Office of Legislative Counsel and subsequently filed suit in federal district court, represented by our friends at Lambda Legal.  The trial court ruled in her favor in July 2010, and the state appealed to the Eleventh Circuit. 

In today’s opinion, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the state’s action constituted discrimination based on sex and violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.  Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Rosemary Barkett concluded, “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.”  The Eleventh Circuit now joins the growing number of federal courts that have concluded that discrimination against transgender workers constitutes sex discrimination, either under the Equal Protection Clause or under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.    

We congratulate Vandy Beth and her fantastic lawyers at Lambda Legal.  Unfortunately, far too many people are still at risk of losing their jobs simply because they are transgender – as well as lesbian, gay or bisexual.  That’s why it is still so critical that we pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  Vandy Beth testified courageously before the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009 in support of the bill, and Members of Congress need to keep hearing from their constituents why we need federal protections to ensure LGBT people get the opportunity to make a living and support their families without fear of arbitrary discrimination.  Learn more about ENDA here!

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