11th Circuit upholds ruling in favor of transgender woman fired from Georgia Legislative Counsel’s Office
December 6, 2011
By Jacob Combs
Thanks to Kathleen for sending us this decision. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has just released a ruling upholding a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment on the basis of sex discrimination to Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman who was fired from the Georgia Legislative Counsel’s Office.
Glenn, who was born male but began to transition to female in 2005, was hired in October 2005 to be an editor in the Georgia General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Council (OLC). Glenn, who at the time of her hiring went by Glenn Morrison and presented herself as a man, informed her supervisor the next year that she was in the proess of transitioning. When Glenn came to a Halloween party dressed as a woman, Sewell Brumby, the head of the OLC, informed her that her appearance was inappropriate, calling Glenn’s actions “unnatural.” When Glenn informed her superiors in 2007 that she planned to begin coming to work as a woman as part of her transition, Brumby fired her, arguing that her gender transition was “inappropriate, … disruptive, … [and] that some people would view it as a moral issue.”
Glenn sued Brumby, making two claims of discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause. In the first, she claimed that Brumby discriminated against her because of her sex, and in the second, she argued that he did so based on her medical condition (Gender Identity Disorder). The district court granted summary judgment to Glenn on the sex discrimination claim, and summary judgment to Brumby on the medical discrimination claim.
The appellate court ruled that discriminating against someone based on his or her gender non-comformity is a form of sex-based discrimination, and therefore forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause. In doing so, they relied on a previous Supreme Court decision holding that discrimination on the basis of gender stereotype is a form of sex-based discrimination. In its decision, the court stated:
We conclude that a government agent violates the Equal Protection Clause’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination when he or she fires a transgender or transsexual employee because of his or her gender non-conformity.
Because Brumby’s own testimony made clear that he fired Glenn due to her gender non-conformity, the 11th Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling that the termination was one based on sex discrimination. The court declined to review Glenn’s appeal regarding the claim of medical discrimination, saying that the ruling in her favor regarding sex discrimination provides her full relief.
This case is an exciting win for transgender individuals, and sets an important precedent in a circuit that holds jurisdiction over Alabama, Florida and Georgia. It also shows just how important the push for a federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is, and how transgender issues must be included and discussed in the wider push for LGBT rights.
Read the full decision below, from Scribd: