Former Special Forces officer wins transgender discrimination lawsuit

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that the civil rights of former Army Special Forces officer Diane Schroer [profile] were violated after a job offer to serve as the senior terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress [official website] was rescinded following Schroer's disclosure to her future supervisor that she was undergoing a gender transformation. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed [ACLU news release] a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; materials] on behalf of Schroer in June 2005 under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [text; EEOC backgrounder], claiming the Library of Congress made it clear they thought Schroer was the best person for the job in extending the offer, but immediately changed its mind after Schroer voluntarily disclosed her intent to undergo a sex change operation. The complaint also argued that Schroer's right to due process and equal protection rights were violated. The Library of Congress countered that federal anti-discrimination laws do not extend to transgender people. The judge found "compelling evidence" that the hiring decision was "infected by sex stereotypes," and concluded:

it is not necessary to draw sweeping conclusions about the reach of Title VII. Even if the decisions that define the word “sex” in Title VII as referring only to anatomical or chromosomal sex are still good law...the Library’s refusal to hire Schroer after being advised that she planned to change her anatomical sex by undergoing sex reassignment surgery was literally discrimination “because of . . . sex.”
CNN has more.

The ruling comes as a major victory for transgender people claiming employment discrimination. In October, an employment non-discrimination bill protecting gays, lesbians, and bisexuals but not transgendered individuals was sent to the full US House of Representatives [JURIST report]. The absence of transgender protections prompted sharp opposition [ACLU press release] to the measure from civil rights groups, but Democrats who had introduced the bill were worried that the inclusion of language applying to transgender employees would cause the bill to fail. They vowed to address the issue in the future. Currently less than half of US states specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation [JURIST news archive], and only half of these laws include protection for transgender individuals. Last year Maryland passed a transgender anti-discrimination law, but its implementation was suspended when opponents of the measure gathered signatures on a referendum petition. The matter was set to go to voters in November [JURIST report], but the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled this month [Washington Post report] that the petition did not fulfill the legal requirements to put the question on the ballot.


 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.