|Vandy Beth Glenn may soon return to work at Ga. General Assembly|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Friday, 09 December 2011 00:00|
A federal appeals court panel has upheld a lower court ruling that Vandy Beth Glenn was wrongly fired from her job as a legislative editor in the Georgia General Assembly after she informed her employer she planned to transition from male to female.
“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 three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Dec. 6, just five days after oral arguments were heard in the case.
Judge Rosemary Barkett wrote the opinion for the unanimous panel that included Judge William H. Pryor and Senior Judge Phyllis Kravitch.
The ruling goes on to state, “All persons, whether transgender or not, are protected from discrimination on the basis of gender stereotype. For example, courts have held that plaintiffs cannot be discriminated against for wearing jewelry that was considered too effeminate, carrying a serving tray too gracefully, or taking too active a role in child-rearing.
“An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender-nonconformity. Because these protections are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual,” the ruling states.
Glenn, who was represented by Lambda Legal attorney Greg Nevins, said she was “giddy” about the news and especially pleased the panel voted 3-0 in her favor.
“I asked Greg if this was a precedent [on a ruling made so quickly after arguments]. He said not in matters of national security or presidential elections,” Glenn said. “So this is extremely unusual but I think it speaks to the strength of our case.”
The state could appeal to the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Glenn said she believes the “end of the tunnel is in sight.”
“I’m not kidding myself that this is necessarily over, but even if they do appeal the odds are not in their favor,” she said.
Glenn mentioned she is going to Disney World in January to run the Disney World marathon.
“I feel I could fly the marathon right now,” she said.
Nevins, who used only a few minutes of his 30-minutes granted by the 11th Circuit Court to answer questions from the judges during oral arguments on Dec. 1, said the swiftness of the ruling was a bit surprising. But, he added, the ruling was simple to make.
“The question of whether transgender people can be protected under sex discrimination is answered — they put an end to that,” he said of the panel. “They just didn’t think this was rocket science. This was not even a close call. It’s such a clear statement.”
Nevins said the 11th Circuit Court’s ruling would hopefully be a wake up call to employers who feel they can fire transgender people without legal repercussions. But he also noted Congress needs to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to ensure job protections for all LGBT people.
“It is a very wonderful ruling that clearly states transgender people are protected from this kind of discrimination,” Nevins said.
Richard Sheinis, the attorney who argued the case for the state, could not immediately be reached for comment on whether he would challenge the ruling.
While the state may decide to appeal, Nevins said the state’s arguments have been shredded by a diverse panel of judges.
“The law is on our side, but everyone shouldn’t need a lawyer to help them fight workplace discrimination. Congress must pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act because we still need a federal law to tell employers unequivocally that discrimination against LGBT employees in the workplace is illegal. We are proud of Vandy Beth for standing up for her rights — her courage has helped clear the path for others,” Nevins said.
Back to work
What’s next? Glenn returns to work.
After U.S District Court Judge Richard Story ruled in Glenn’s favor last year, he ordered her to resume receiving her salary but granted a stay stopping her from returning to work at the Georgia General Assembly until the 11th Circuit ruled on the appeal. Now that ruling has been issued.
“The legislative session is about to begin [in January] and I’m sure they could use her soon. Now it’s a matter of logistics,” Nevins said. “I could get a call anytime now saying she can return to work and I’m waiting by the phone for that call.”
Up for consideration in this year’s Georgia legislative session is HB 630, introduced last year by openly gay state Rep. Karla Drenner and backed by Georgia Equality. The bill would provide workplace protections for state employees, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.
Glenn said returning to work is what her case has been about since the beginning.
“I never should have been fired in the first place,” she said. “This was a job I loved and I was good at it.”
Glenn started working as a legislative editor for the Georgia General Assembly in 2005 as a man, Glenn Morrison. That same year she was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder.
When she informed her supervisors of her plans to transition from male to female, her boss, Sewell Brumby, legislative counsel at the time, fired her.
Brumby stated during court depositions that the thought of someone with male sexual organs in women’s clothing was “unsettling” to him, was “something I don’t like to think about,” and was something he viewed as “unnatural.” Brumby also freely admitted he thought Georgia legislators would think Glenn’s presence at the Capitol would be “immoral.”
Long legal battle
2005: Vandy Beth Glenn begins work as a legislative editor at the Georgia General Assembly as a man, Glenn Morrison. This same year, Glenn is diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder.
October 2006: Glenn informs her immediate supervisor, Beth Yinger, of her plans to transition from male to female in 2007 while continuing to work. Yinger tells Glenn she sees no problem and informs Sewell Brumby, the legislative counsel for the General Assembly.
July 2007: Glenn reiterates to Yinger her plans to transition from male to female.
September 2007: Glenn loans Yinger a photo album with pictures of her with long hair, in female clothing and wearing makeup and also gives Yinger educational materials about workplace gender transitions. Yinger passes the information to Brumby. Brumby tells Yinger he will consult with the leadership of the General Assembly about Glenn’s plans for gender transition.
Oct. 16, 2007: Brumby fires Glenn. Brumby tells Glenn that “her gender transition and presentation of herself as a woman would be seen as immoral, could not happen appropriately in the workplace in which Glenn worked and would make other employees uncomfortable.”
July 2, 2008: Glenn, represented by Lamba Legal, files a federal civil lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The lawsuit states Glenn was illegally fired based on sex discrimination because she did not fit the gender stereotypes of how Brumby believed a woman should appear.
October 2008: Defendants in Glenn’s case file motion to dismiss.
June 2009: U.S. District Court denies defendants’ motion to dismiss and the case continues.
September 2009: Both sides file for summary judgment.
July 2010: U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story rules in favor of Glenn, saying she was illegally fired based on sex discrimination.
Aug. 3, 2010: Judge Story orders Glenn reinstated to her job at the General Assembly. The state’s attorney asks Glenn not be reinstated to her job during the appeals process.
Aug. 6, 2010: Judge Story rules Glenn not be allowed to return to work during the appeals but orders the state begin paying her the salary she received when fired as well as benefits.
Dec. 1, 2011: A panel of three judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals hears oral arguments from the state and Lambda Legal in Glenn’s case.
Dec. 6, 2011: The appeals court panel rules in favor of Glenn, ruling that she is the victim of sex discrimination based on her gender nonconformity.
Top photo: Lambda Legal attorney Greg Nevins and Vandy Beth Glenn discussed Glenn’s discrimination case with reporters after the Dec. 1 hearing. (by Dyana Bagby)
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