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|[Video] Federal appeals court offers hope in Ga. transgender woman's job bias lawsuit|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|December 01, 2011 14:43|
Three judges sitting on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals today appeared to side with transgender woman Vandy Beth Glenn, who was fired from her job as a legislative editor for the Georgia General Assembly after she informed her boss she was transitioning full-time to a woman.
"We have direct evidence of intentional discrimination," said Judge Bill Pryor.
Richard Sheinis, representing the state, argued that if Glenn was to win this case, transgender people would become a "protected class."
"That's right," Pryor and Judge Rosemary Barkett answered, almost simultaneously.
Pryor told Sheinis if he wanted to change the outcome, he should "go talk to Congress."
Pryor started off the entire proceedings by telling Sheinis, "It looks like you have a big problem with Price Waterhouse."
In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the accounting firm sexually discriminated against employee Ann Hopkins for not promoting her to partnership because she wasn't feminine enough and didn't fit the stereotype of how a woman should look and behave.
That is the same situation in Glenn's case, argued Judge Barkett, who stated she did not understand the state's arguments opposing Glenn's claims that she was fired due to sexual discrimination.
Sheinis argued that Glenn underwent a "complete gender transition" which is different than someone who does not fit the stereotype of what a male of female should look and act like.
"Transgender status is not a protected class," he said.
"It is a gender stereotype issue," Barkett responded.
Judge Phyllis Kravitch asked if anyone opposed Glenn's transition other than her supervisor, former legislative counsel Sewell Brumby. Brumby retired in August.
Nobody else working with Glenn was opposed to her transition.
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.”
He also stated in depositions that keeping Glenn on the job “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,” according to Story’s 50-page ruling.
Glenn is represented by nonprofit LGBT legal organization Lambda Legal and sued the state of Georgia after she was fired in 2007.
Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal and Glenn's attorney said during oral arguments the state committed a clear case of sex discrimination and then offered to answer any questions from the judges.
Pryor asked about bathroom accommodations and Nevins explained where Glenn worked there were several single-use, single-occupancy restrooms available to all employees.
After the hearing and on the steps of the Court of Appeals, Glenn said she felt very "optimistic" about her case after listening to today's oral arguments. Nevins also felt the questions posed by the judges showed "skepticism" on their part that the state did not act illegally when firing Glenn.
"No one wants to make predictions based on oral arguments … their questions showed keen appreciation for what happened to Vandy Beth and we are hopeful for the best," Nevins said.
There is no timetable set for when a ruling will be made.
Watch a video of comments made by Nevins and Glenn after today's oral arguments:
Top photo: Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta, with Vandy Beth Glenn outside the federal Court of Appeals building. (by Dyana Bagby)
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