Tennessee has joined 15 other states asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision that ruled that workplace anti-discrimination laws extended to transgender workers.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a Michigan funeral home had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by firing a transgender employee who didn’t follow to the employer’s dress code.
According to a release from Tennessee AG Herbert H. Slatery, the ruling interpreted Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination “because of sex” to include discrimination based on an employee’s transgender status.
Chris Sanders, Executive Director of the Tennessee Equality Project, said the Attorney General is misinterpreting the law.
"This is picking on a group that is already picked on," said Sanders. "Someone is still being fired because that person doesn't meet the conception of others. It is still sex discrimination."
Sanders said the TEP called on the Attorney General to hire a transgender attorney so he could have a better understanding of the issue.
Tennessee joined other states – including Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Mississippi – seeking a review of that decision.
The states argue that when Congress enacted Title VII in 1964 it used the word “sex” to mean only biological sex, not gender identity.
“The Sixth Circuit’s decision in Harris essentially rewrote federal law,” said Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III. “Unless and until Congress affirmatively acts to change Title VII, it is up to the States, not the federal judiciary, to determine which protections, or not, should flow to individuals based on gender identity.”