Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Last week the federal appeals court for the 4th Circuit ruled that a Virginia student could sue his school board for prohibiting him from using the bathroom matching his gender identity. The Court found that the prohibition imposed upon Gavin Grimm violated Title IX. The ruling, in what is generally considered a conservative state, may have influence in other states that are resistant to endorsing bathroom use by gender identity. Among the states struggling to prevent gender identity from deciding which bathroom is used are: South Dakota, Illinois, Texas and Mississippi. A pathway for the issue to arrive at the US Supreme Court perhaps?
And let's not forget North Carolina where activists against the newly enacted law restricting the rights of LGBT individuals were arrested for refusing to leave a state building where a demonstration was taking place. However, the arrests could have been a major breakthrough for the activists. Whether intended or not, the situation is not without its irony, if not humor. Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, was among those arrested. Not only did she describe the arresting officers as respectful, Ms. Keisling reported that transgender men were put into cells housing males while transgender women were housed in the women's cell. Also, at the jail, arrestees used bathrooms that matched gender identity.
All to prove that you cannot make this stuff up.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Last week, a Massachusetts state judge ruled that a Catholic high school discriminated against a gay man when it rescinded a job offer upon learning that the candidate's spouse is male. The decision is believed to be the first in the nation employment discrimination case since the enactment of marriage equality. The candidate, Matthew Barrett, accepted an offer as food service director. But when he listed his husband as his emergency contact in completing employment forms, the school withdrew its offer.
Mr. Barrett is represented by GLAD attorney, Ben Klein. Judge Douglas Wilkins, in deciding the case, rejected the school's argument of a religious exemption under the Massachusetts' anti-discrimination law. The school argued that it was justified in not hiring Mr. Barrett because his marriage was inconsistent with the school's religious teachings. Judge Wilkins based his decision on several findings. Noting that the school was entitled to control its message, he said that right is limited to those in a position to shape the message, including teachers, ministers and spokesperson. Justice Wilkins noted that Mr. Barrett's position was not in a message shaping catagory and Mr. Barrett has not been an advocate for same sex marriage. In what is a disappointing ruling for those asking to have sexual identity acknowledged as a protected class, Judge Wilkins noted only that Mr. Barrett was subject to gender discrimination when he was denied employment to which a woman applicant married to a man would have been entitled. As previously discussed in this blog, a protected class analysis has been lacking in the same sex and sexual identity cases that have come before a variety of U. S. courts.
This decision is ripe to wend its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Advocates for conservative Catholic organizations, such as the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, are already voicing dismay over the decision. That statement may be said too lightly. The group's website headline says that it "condemns" the decision. I suspect that those advocating for the acknowledgement of sexual identity as a suspect classification would welcome this case being accepted for cert. The facts are favorable for consideration of the protected class argument that was avoided in Obergefell. On the other hand, those who believe that this case is wrongly decided may be cautioned against appeal if the consequence might be a ruling that not only affirms the trial court but expands constitutional protections on sexual identity grounds.