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US appeals court says civil rights law covers transgender workers

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A federal law banning sex bias in the workplace prohibits discrimination against transgender workers, a U.S. appeals court said on Wednesday, ruling in favor of a funeral director who was fired after telling her boss she planned to transition to female from male.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes Inc in Detroit unlawfully discriminated against Aimee Stephens, formerly known as Anthony Stephens, based on her sex.

The court also said the funeral home failed to establish that the federal workplace law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, substantially burdened the ability of funeral home owner Thomas Rost, a devout Christian, to exercise his religious rights in his treatment of Stephens.

Several federal appeals courts have said that discriminating against transgender workers is a form of unlawful sex bias. But the 6th Circuit was the first to consider a religious defense in such a case.

 The court decided a lawsuit that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed on behalf of Stephens in 2014.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group that represents the funeral home, said the decision allowed the government to “strong-arm” religious employers.

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In a statement, Stephens’ lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union called the decision an important victory for transgender workers.

Rost had claimed that he viewed his work as a religious service for grieving families, and that employing a transgender woman would distract customers.

Rost said he could not be held liable for discriminating against Stephens under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which bars the government from burdening an individual’s religious practice.

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But Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore, writing for the court on Wednesday, said Rost could not use his customers’ “presumed biases” as an excuse for firing Stephens.

“Tolerating Stephens’s understanding of her sex and gender identity is not tantamount to supporting it,” Moore wrote.

The decision reversed a 2016 ruling by a federal judge in Detroit who had said that Rost was shielded from the lawsuit because he operated his business “as a ministry.”

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Rost also said that because his company pays for employees’ work clothes, he would be forced to violate his religious beliefs by paying for Stephens to wear women’s clothing. But the court said he was not legally required to pay for the clothes, so it would not burden his religious practice.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Daniel Wiessner in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool


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Trump ‘will get worse’ because he does not fear Democrats impeaching him: Chairwoman Maxine Waters

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Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) predicted on Friday that President Donald Trump "will get worse" because of the lack of impeachment proceedings.

Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, was interviewed on MSNBC by Chris Hayes.

"I want to switch gears on the last question here, just to talk about what’s happened over the last several days with the president’s attacks on your colleagues, the chants of 'Send her Back,' which the president sort of very, very tepidly and meekly sort of disavowed yesterday, but then essentially reavowed today when given an opportunity to talk about it, he sort of reembraced his supporters who were chanting that," Hayes noted.

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Fox News hires former Trump spokesman as Senior Vice President: report

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The revolving door between the White House and Fox News was spinning on Friday as a former spokesman for President Donald Trump was hired by Fox News.

"A bit of news: Raj Shah, the former spokesman in the White House, is joining Fox as a senior Vice President," Washington Post White House correspondent Josh Dawsey reported on Friday.

https://twitter.com/jdawsey1/status/1152374273522241537

After Hope Hicks left her job as White House communications director, she was hired to lead corporate communications for New Fox, the parent company of Fox News.

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Here’s why President Trump’s explicit racism is an impeachable offense

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Without even waiting for former special counsel Robert Mueller to testify about President Donald Trump's obstruction of justice, Democrats are legally justified in acting now to impeach the president for his explicit racism, a civil rights activist argued on Friday.

Journalist and author Shaun King laid out his argument in a column published by The Intercept.

To make his argument, King explained the difference between implicit and explicit racism.

"Across the country, corporations and government agencies, including police departments, are offering a wave of what’s called 'implicit bias training.' The fundamental theory is that, in this country, otherwise well-meaning employees can be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or xenophobic in ways that they may not really even be aware of," he explained. "It’s the notion that people unknowingly or unconsciously discriminate against others."

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