Tennessee Attorney General Lambasts Court Ruling Protecting Transgender Persons From Being Fired

Grace Carr | Reporter

Tennessee’s attorney general criticized a federal court ruling Tuesday, calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a decision that found a funeral home owner guilty of discrimination after he fired his transgender employee.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III, along with political leaders from 15 other states, filed a brief that asked the Supreme Court to reverse a March decision that found a business owner guilty of gender discrimination after terminating a transgender employee, according to the Memphis Flyer.

“The Sixth Circuit’s decision … essentially rewrote federal law,” Slatery said in a Tuesday statement, the Tennessean reported. “Unless and until Congress affirmatively acts to change (the law), it is up to the states, not the federal judiciary, to determine which protections, or not, should flow to individuals based on gender identity.”

In addition to Slatery, attorneys general from Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming filed the amicus brief. Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage, and Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant also joined the brief.

“The Sixth Circuit erred by categorically declaring ‘[d]iscrimination on the basis of transgender and transitioning status is necessarily discrimination on the basis of sex,'” the states wrote in their brief.

Slatery’s statements and the brief follow the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s March ruling that Harris Funeral Homes owner Thomas Rost discriminated against transgender employee Aimee Stephens when he fired Stephens in 2013.

“Discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII,” the three appellate case ruling judges wrote in their decision, according to Michigan Radio(RELATED: Court Rules In Favor Of Fired Transgender Employee)

The court’s ruling came after Stephens sent his boss a letter in 2013 explaining he felt he had been born in the wrong body, according to WXYZ Detroit. Stephens said he was going to start dressing as a woman and wanted Rost to be aware of the upcoming changes. Stephens sued on grounds of discrimination after Rost fired him, but a lower court ruled against Stephens before the Sixth Circuit Court overturned the decision.

Rost acknowledges he indeed fired Aimee because his religious beliefs didn’t allow him to feel comfortable with a transgender employee directing his funeral home business. Rost maintains it is his religious freedom and right as a business owner to fire an employee he deemed unfit.

The 16 states who filed the brief now ask the U.S. Supreme Court “to correct the Sixth Circuit’s egregious error.”

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