11th Circuit panel signals support of trans employee

by on December 1, 2011  •  In Employment law, Transgender

Sounds like things went extremely well for the Lambda Legal argument in the Glenn v. Brumby case before the 11th Circuit this morning, with support from all three members of the panel. It's dangerous to assume too much from an oral argument, and the decision below which the Court of Appeals is being asked to affirm was not without its shortcomings. But if this prediction holds and the 11th Circuit rules in Glenn's favor, it will be even more clear than it is already that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, because it is a form of sex discrimination. Most circuits have already adopted that position. Congress and the Executive Branch should take steps to solidify this interpretation, and that should become much easier politically with the precedents created by these decisions. (from AJC:)

A panel of three federal appeals court judges on Thursday appeared strongly inclined to grant a legal victory to Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman who was fired as a legislative editor at the General Assembly after she disclosed she was going to make the transition from man to woman.

During oral arguments, Judges Rosemary Barkett and Bill Pryor said U.S. Supreme Court precedents appear to support a lower-court judge's finding that Glenn was the subject of sex discrimination.

"We have direct evidence of intentional discrimination, it seems to me," Pryor told Richard Sheinis, a lawyer representing the state of Georgia. "You can't discriminate against someone because they don't behave the way you expect them to behave because of their sex," Pryor added.

Barkett repeatedly told Sheinis she couldn't understand the basis of the state's arguments.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Richard Story ruled that Glenn was discriminated against because of her sex, and the state is appealing that decision.

Glenn was hired as a legislative editor in October 2005 at a time when she was presenting herself as a man with the name of Glenn Morrison. Two years later, when she told Sewell Brumby, head of the Office of Legislative Counsel, that she intended to transition into being a woman, Brumby fired Glenn.

During the arguments, Senior Judge Phyllis Kravitch noted that no members of the legislative counsel staff had complained about Glenn's transition from man to woman. "No one complained but him," Barkett added, referring to Brumby.

In his ruling, Story said Glenn could get her job back. But that decision was stayed, pending the outcome of the appeal before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Standing outside the courthouse after the hearing, Glenn said she was eager for the court to issue its decision. "I felt it went very well," said Glenn, standing by her lawyer, Gregory Nevins of the Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "It took a long time to get here."

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