In the aftermath of federal court ruling allowing to Michigan funeral home to discriminate against a transgender worker in the name of “religious freedom,” the U.S. agency representing the worker has appealed the decision to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a notice of appeal on Thursday before U.S. District Judge Sean Cox, an appointee of George W. Bush who ruled in August the Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes to discriminate against Amiee Stephens. The funeral home terminated her after she announced her plans to transition.
EEOC had argued the prohibition on gender discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the funeral home from discriminating against Stephens for being transgender. But in a decision based on the U.S. Supreme Court 2014 decision in the Hobby Lobby case, Cox determined requiring the funeral home to employ Stephens “would impose a substantial burden on its ability to conduct business in accordance with its sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
The majority owner of the funeral home, Thomas Rost, asserted his Christian faith prohibits him from paying for and permitting employees to dress as members of the opposite sex, as he put it. Representing Rost before the federal court was the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom.