Appeals court rules in favor of transgender woman

By Jeff Martin

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 6 2011 4:19 p.m. MST

ATLANTA — A federal appeals court in Atlanta has ruled in favor of a former Georgia state legislative aide who was fired after revealing plans for a sex change.

Vandy Beth Glenn, who was formerly known as Glenn Morrison, said she was fired after telling her boss that she planned to proceed with her gender transition and would begin coming to work dressed as a woman.

She said she was told that that would be seen as "immoral" by Georgia's lawmakers.

In Tuesday's ruling, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld a lower court's ruling that Glenn was the victim of sex discrimination.

"All persons, whether transgender or not, are protected from discrimination on the basis of gender stereotype," the ruling stated.

"An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender non-conformity," the court wrote. "Because these protections are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual."

Atlanta lawyer Greg Nevins, who represented Glenn, praised the ruling. "We're ecstatic," he said.

The appeals court, he said, "had no trouble seeing this for what it was, and it was gender stereotyping."

Attorneys for Glenn's former boss, Sewell Brumby, did not immediately return phone calls from The Associated Press Tuesday.

Glenn was fired in 2007, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She had notified her supervisor of her plans the previous year. The ruling said that Glenn should be returned to her job. The newspaper reported that Brumby, who had headed the Office of Legislative Counsel, recently retired.

State attorneys have said Glenn wasn't fired because of her appearance or her behavior, but because she was undergoing a sex change. They said in court papers that distinction is important because people undergoing gender transitions aren't protected under the federal equal protection clause.

Brumby had said that "it's unsettling to think of someone dressed in women's clothing with male sexual organs inside that clothing," according to Tuesday's ruling.

Brumby testified earlier that his decision to dismiss Glenn was based on his perception of Glenn as "a man dressed as a woman and made up as a woman," the ruling states.

The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel came five days after the appeals court heard arguments.

Nevins, of Lambda Legal, a civil rights group that represents gays, lesbians and transgender persons, said he thinks the ruling will help employers encountering similar situations.

"Employers do want guidance about what they can do and what they can't do," Nevins said. "That guidance came today."

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