Vandy Beth Glenn was a legislative editor for the Georgia state legislature prior to telling her supervisors about her intent to transition from male to female, at which point she was fired. Unfortunately, as so many other transgender and genderqueer individuals can attest, this treatment is far too common. Federal law does not explicitly designate gender identity as a protected status in employment and hiring, leading many to depend on the forward-thinking of some companies or those few states with laws in place on the state level to prevent this kind of discrimination. But thanks to Glenn and her determination to pursue the case, a new precedent has been set, at least in the district covered by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Focusing on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and whether its formation of equal protection on the basis of sex extends to transgender individuals, the case carried a unanimous ruling. On December 6th, the federal Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by a lower court in Glenn’s favor, stating the protection does in fact extend. The court drew parallels in the way discrimination is experienced based on both sex and gender, writing, “A person is identified as transgender precisely because of the perception that his or her behavior transgresses gender stereotypes… Accordingly, discrimination against a transgender individual because of her gender-nonconformity is sex discrimination, whether it’s described as being on the basis of sex or gender” (Glenn v. Brumby 8-9).
This decision creates a precedent in those states in the district of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, establishing protection for those residing in the area under the new interpretation of the federal law. This decision is a milestone in the fight for equal protections under the law. It is important to remember that though this decision does extend these protections, they are only established in that district. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which is currently awaiting action in Congress would explicitly provide these protections on a federal level throughout the US. More information on ENDA can be found at HRC.org.
Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn v. Sewell R. Brumby. No. 10-14833; 10-15015. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. 6 December 2011. Electronic. < http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/201014833.pdf>.