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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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.

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


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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75 years ago: When atomic scientist Leo Szilard tried to halt dropping bombs over Japan

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As this troubled summer rolls along, and the world begins to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation, and use, of the first atomic bombs, many special, or especially tragic, days will draw special attention.  They will include July 16 (first test of the weapon in New Mexico), August 6 (bomb dropped over Hiroshima) and August 9 (over Nagasaki).   Surely far fewer in the media and elsewhere will mark another key date:  July 3.

On July 3, 1945, the great atomic scientist Leo Szilard finished a letter/petition that would become the strongest (virtually the only) real attempt at halting President Truman's march to using the atomic bomb--still almost two weeks from its first test at Trinity--against Japanese cities.

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‘Insane’: Park ranger shoots unarmed man through his heart and then handcuffs his dead body

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A ranger at Carlsbad Caverns National Park tased and then fatally shot a man during a New Mexico traffic stop and then handcuffed his lifeless body.

Charles "Gage" Lorentz was traveling March 21 from his work site in Pecos, Texas, to his family's home in southwest Colorado when he detoured at the national park to meet a friend, and that's where he encountered National Park Ranger Robert Mitchell, reported KOB-TV.

The ranger stopped the 25-year-old Lorentz for speeding on a dirt road near the park's Rattlesnake Springs area, and Mitchell's lapel video shows him ordering Lorentz to spread his feet and move closer to a railing.

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Former Trump administration official refers to a renowned Black scholar as ‘some criminal’

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President Donald Trump's former Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred to renowned Black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. as "some criminal" in an interview with The New York Times Magazine.

Sessions, one of Trump's earliest supporters who was later fired after years of attacks from the president, is currently attempting to reclaim his old Senate seat in Alabama. Sessions has desperately tried to tout his Trumpist credentials on the campaign trail, even as the president has waged a campaign aimed at sabotaging his primary bid.

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