Court Reviews Ga. Firing of Transgender Woman
A former Georgia state legislative aide who was fired amid her sex change said she was encouraged Thursday after several federal appeals court judges suggested they could rule in her favor.
Two of the three 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges weighing Vandy Beth Glenn’s case signaled that federal precedents require them to uphold a lower court’s ruling that Glenn was the victim of sex discrimination when she was fired amid a gender transition.
Glenn, who was formerly known as Glenn Morrison, said she was fired after telling her boss, Sewell Brumby, that she would come to work dressed as a woman during the transition. She said she was told it would be seen as "immoral" by Georgia’s lawmakers.
Glenn’s attorney, Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal, said he was confident the law was on his client’s side.
"Vandy Beth was fired because her boss didn’t like who she is, and that kind of treatment is discriminatory and illegal," he said, adding: "It is unfair and illegal to fire a transgender employee because she does not conform to your sexist stereotypes of how a woman should be."
State attorneys countered that 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.
Glenn was hired in October 2005 to work as a legislative editor, charged with proofreading the hundreds of measures and proposals filed each year for grammar and spelling errors. The same year she was diagnosed with gender identity disorder.
For about a year, she continued to come to work as a man by day and dressed as a woman at home at night. But in October 2006 Glenn told her supervisor she planned to undergo a gender transition to become a female. Physicians had advised her to start dressing as a female throughout the transition to help her adapt.
In June 2007 she told her office she was continuing with the gender change, and gave her supervisors pamphlets on how to handle the transition and a photo album with several pictures of Glenn dressed as a woman. She was confronted by her supervisors a few months later .
Sewell Brumby, who was then the state Legislative Counsel, called her into a meeting in October 2007 and asked whether she was undergoing the transition, according to the filings. When she confirmed, she said Brumby told her it would be viewed as immoral and said it couldn’t "happen appropriately" in the workplace. She was fired and given 10 minutes to clean out her desk.
U.S. District Judge Richard Story ruled in Glenn’s favor last year, and said she should get her job with the state back. But her case was stayed pending the decision by the federal appeals court, which could be released within months.
"I felt like it went really well," said Glenn, who now works as a freelance editor. "I can’t imagine it going better. It took a long time to get here, and I’m feeling good."