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|Breaking: Transgender woman wins federal lawsuit against Georgia General Assembly|
|by Laura Douglas-Brown and Dyana Bagby|
|July 06, 2010 12:01|
A federal judge ruled late Friday that the Georgia General Assembly illegally discriminated against Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman, by firing her from her job as a legislative editor when she announced her plan to transition from male to female.
Beth Littrell of Atlanta, staff attorney for Lambda Legal which is representing Glenn in the lawsuit, said she was "thrilled and relieved but not surprised" with the judge's ruling because it was clear those working for the General Assembly who fired Glenn broke federal law.
It's also important to keep in mind the defendants may still appeal the decision, Littrell said, and this ruling is not a substitution for a statewide law needed to ensure people in Georgia cannot be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
"This is no substitution for a statewide law, but it does send a message," she said.
Atlanta attorney Richard Sheinis, representing the defendants, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. His co-counsel, Nichole Hair, said she had no comment. The two work for Hall, Booth, Smith & Slover.
There is cause for celebration with the ruling, Littrell said. By ruling in favor of Glenn, this suit joins other precedent-setting lawsuits that offer protections from bias in the workplace to transgender people as well as to all people, gay or straight, who do not have gender-conforming appearances.
For instance, a woman who doesn't look like a stereotypical woman or a man who doesn't look like a stereotypical man, can view this ruling as also being favorable toward them, Littrell said.
"This is a good sign the times are changing," she said.
Littrell presented Glenn with the Leon Allen & Winston Johnston Community Service Award at the Atlanta Human Rights Campaign Dinner in May. Glenn also testified before Congress on the need to pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act in September 2009.
Here is today's press release from Lambda Legal, which represented Glenn in the historic case:
Federal Court Rules in Favor of Transgender Woman Represented by Lambda Legal After She Was Fired By Georgia General Assembly
"The evidence was clear - Vandy Beth was fired because her boss didn't like who she is, and that kind of treatment is unfair and illegal."
(Atlanta, GA, July 6, 2010) - Late Friday, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled that the Georgia General Assembly discriminated against Lambda Legal client Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman who was fired from her job as Legislative Editor after she told her supervisor that she planned to transition from male to female.
United States District Court Judge Richard Story wrote: "...avoiding the anticipated negative reactions of others cannot serve as a sufficient basis for discrimination and does not constitute an important government interest."
"Today's decision by the Court proved that the Georgia General Assembly isn't above the Constitution," said Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Attorney at Lambda Legal. "The evidence was clear - Vandy Beth was fired because her boss didn't like who she is, and that kind of treatment is unfair and illegal."
Glenn worked for two years in the General Assembly's Office of Legislative Counsel as an editor and proofreader of bill language. She loved her job, but living as a male was increasingly painful and distressing for Glenn who has a longstanding female gender identity. Glenn's health care providers diagnosed her with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and agreed that gender transition was necessary for her health and well-being. In 2007, Glenn informed her immediate supervisor, Beth Yinger, that she planned to proceed with her transition from male to female, and showed Yinger photographs of herself in professional female attire. Yinger passed the information on to her boss, the General Assembly's Legislative Counsel, Sewell Brumby. After confirming that Glenn intended to transition, Brumby decided to fire Vandy Beth because he thought her transition "...was inappropriate, that it would be disruptive, that some people would view it as a moral issue, and that it would make Glenn's coworkers uncomfortable."
Lambda Legal's lawsuit, filed in July 2008, claimed that Glenn's termination violated the Constitution's Equal Protection guarantee because it treated her differently due to her nonconformity with sex stereotypes and her medical condition. After the State's motion to dismiss failed, the two sides filed motions for summary judgment in September 2009. Using the high standard of scrutiny required for sex discrimination claims, the Court ruled that Georgia General Assembly officials violated the Constitution and discriminated against Glenn by terminating her for failing to conform to gender stereotypes. Using a lower standard of review, the Court rejected the second Equal Protection claim that Glenn was discriminated against on the basis of her medical condition.
The Court's ruling relied in part on Lambda Legal's prior work in Lopez v. River Oaks, a federal discrimination case on behalf of a woman in Texas who had a job offer rescinded because she is transgender.
The Court has set a hearing for July 13 to determine a remedy.
"This is a major victory for all transgender people across the country, and I hope that a federal discrimination law will follow in its wake," said Lambda Legal client Vandy Beth Glenn.
Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta and Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Attorney are handling the case. The case is Glenn v. Brumby et. al.
To view the complete ruling, click here.
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