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Federal Appeals Court Panel Rules Anti-Sex-Discrimination Laws Protect Georgia Transgender Woman

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Vandy Beth Glenn walks outside the US Capitol after her testimony before the House Committee on Education and Labor in 2009.

CREDIT: Flickr / davidderiso

When Vandy Beth Glenn announced her desire to live full-time as a woman, the state of Georgia fired her from her job as a legislative editor.

Now, an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel has ruled unanimously that her position was illegally terminated, and that Georgia’s prohibition on sex discrimination applies to gender presentation and gender identity. 

“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 judges ruled. 

Glenn filed suit in 2007 for wrongful termination. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story ruled in her favor in 2010, causing the state to appeal.

According to judicial questioning, the only person at Glenn’s workplace who voiced opposition to her transition was her supervisor, former legislative counsel Sewell Brumby, who retired earlier this year. In previous depositions, Brumby stated that he felt Glenn’s transition was “unsettling” and “unnatural,” and that legislators might find her presence “immoral.”

The 11th Circuit Court joins the Sixth and Ninth Circuit Courts in ruling that state sex discrimination laws do apply to transgender workers, reflecting what the ACLU says is a trend toward application of such laws to gender minorities.

Georgia could appeal further to the full Court of Appeals or even to the Supreme Court. If so—particularly in the latter case—the decision could have wide-ranging consequences beyond Glenn’s employment, including a definitive ruling on whether federal anti-sex-discrimination laws apply to transgender people.

A lawyer representing the state argued that the Court’s decision would add transgender people as a “protected class” in Georgia.

Two judges, including the notoriously anti-gay William Pryor, answered nearly simultaneously: “That’s right.” 

Shay O'Reilly is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @shaygabriel.

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