A federal appeals court panel today upheld a lower court ruling that Georgia transgender woman Vandy Beth Glenn was illegally fired from her job as a legislative editor in the Georgia General Assembly after she informed her employer she planned to transition from male to female.
“The question here is whether discriminating against someone on the basis of his or her gender non-conformity constitutes sex-based discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause. …We hold that it does,” the three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.
Read the story on oral arguments held before the 11th Circuit on Dec. 1 here.
“There is thus a congruence between discriminating against transgender and transsexual individuals and discrimination on the basis of gender-based behavioral norms.
“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,” the three-judge panel stated in its 18-page ruling.
Glenn said today she was “giddy” about the news and especially pleased the panel voted 3-0 in her favor.
“I asked Greg [Nevins, Lambda Legal attorney representing her] if this was a precedent [on a ruling made so quickly after arguments]. He said not in matters of national security or presidential elections,” Glenn said. “So this is extremely unusual but I think it speaks to the strength of our case.”
The state could appeal to the the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Glenn said she believes the “end of the tunnel is in sight.”
“I’m not kidding myself that this is necessarily over, but even if they do appeal the odds are not in their favor,” she said.
Glenn mentioned she is going to Disney World in January to run the Disney World marathon.
“I feel I could fly the marathon right now,” she said.
Meet the judges
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel that heard Vandy Beth Glenn’s case includes an Alabama attorney known for anti-gay decisions, Georgia’s first female Superior Court judge, and a so-called “activist judge.”
Senior Judge Phyliss Kravitch — Born in 1920 in Savannah, Kravitch was nominated in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. She was the first woman appointed to a federal bench in the Southeast and during her law practice earned a reputation fighting for marginalized people, including the right for black people to vote to in the formerly all-white Democratic primary. She was also the first female Superior Court judge in Georgia.
Judge William H. Pryor — Born in 1962 in Mobile, Ala., Pryor was named attorney general of Alabama in 1997 and held that post until 2004. Nominated by President George W. Bush to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals through a recess appointment, Pryor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in June 2005. His nomination was opposed by many LGBT advocacy groups. As Alabama Attorney General, Pryor filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas in favor of upholding sodomy laws, stating that if the Constitution protects “the choice of one’s partner . . . (then it) must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia.” Pryor also cast the deciding vote to not hear a challenge to Florida’s law that bans gay people from adopting.
Judge Rosemary Barkett — Barkett was nominated to the Eleventh Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and she was confirmed by the Senate in 1994. Born in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, in 1939 to Syrian parents, Barkett moved to Miami when she was six and became a U.S. citizen in 1958. In 1985, she was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court, making her the court’s first female, first Hispanic and first Arab-American judge. Dubbed an “activist judge,” she was opposed by conservatives who did not like her stance against the death penalty but she continually voted to uphold it in more than 200 cases. In the Florida gay adoption case, she voted in favor of hearing the challenge.
Check back for more details.
Top photo: Lamba Legal attorney Greg Nevins (left) with Vandy Beth Glenn after the Dec. 1 oral arguments in Glenn’s lawsuit against the state. (by Dyana Bagby)