ATLANTA – A federal court has ruled in favor of a transgender woman who was fired by Georgia’s General Assembly.
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 long-standing 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.