Supreme Court Will Decide if Transgender Rights Prevail Over Christian-Based Businesses

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Aimee Stephens, a biological man, was fired by a Christian-owned funeral home after announcing he wanted to work dressed as a woman.

On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court decided it will take up the case of a transgender employee who claims he was wrongfully fired by a Christian-owned business.

The employee, Aimee Stephens, had worked as the director of a Detroit-area funeral home for six years and was responsible for preparing and embalming bodies. After years of hiding his preference to dress as a female, Stephens was terminated after he told his employer that he would begin dressing as a female at work.

After Stephens was fired, he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

After investigating the case, the EEOC concluded that Ms. Stephens’ employer had violated her rights under Title VII and in 2014 filed a lawsuit on her behalf in federal court. 

In 2016, Judge Sean Cox ruled that the funeral home had violated the Civil Rights Act by firing Ms. Stephens, but that a separate federal law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act immunized the funeral home from liability. 

In March 2018, the Sixth Circuit reversed the trial court’s decision, holding that Title VII protects transgender employees from discrimination and that the funeral home owner’s religious beliefs do not justify violating federal antidiscrimination law. 

Craig Parshall, general counsel for the National Religious Broadcasters, said, “There is an increasing movement to force faith-based employers to bend to the newly-minted doctrine that a person’s subjective ideas of how they think of their own gender should always prevail, regardless of the religious conscience of employers, businesses, and ministries.”

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