Court rules in favor of transgender editor at Legislature

The federal appeals court in Atlanta on Tuesday ruled in favor of a transgender woman who was fired from her General Assembly job after disclosing she was going to make the transition from man to woman.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means Vandy Beth Glenn is one step closer to getting her job back as an editor and proofreader of legislation. Glenn was fired in October 2007.

The court upheld a ruling last year by a federal judge in Atlanta. Glenn had not been allowed to return to her General Assembly job, pending the state’s appeal, but has continued to be paid her state salary.

Glenn was hired at the Office of Legislative Counsel in 2005 when she was a man named Glenn Morrison. That year, she was diagnosed with gender identity disorder, and her doctors recommended a gender transition for her health and well-being.

Glenn began living outside work as a woman, underwent electrolysis and had surgeries to lift her brow and narrow her jaw line. In October 2007, she told her supervisor she was going to begin coming to work as a woman. Sewell Brumby, who at the time headed the office, then asked Glenn whether she fully intended to become a woman. When Glenn said she did, Brumby fired her.

In Tuesday’s opinion, Judge Rosemary Barkett wrote that a government official engages in sex discrimination when firing a transgender employee because he or she fails to conform to the stereotypes associated with gender. For example, Barkett said, courts have previously ruled that a city government could not discriminate against a male employee who wore an earring that was considered too effeminate and found that a restaurant could not allow a waiter to be harassed because he carried a tray like a woman.

“An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender-nonconformity,” Barkett wrote. “Because these protections are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual. The nature of the discrimination is the same; it may differ in degree but not in kind.”

Glenn’s lawyer, Gregory Nevins of the Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund, praised the decision. “It is unfair and illegal to fire transgender employees because their appearance or behavior transgress gender stereotypes,” he said. “Employers should take note of this important ruling.”

Wayne Allen, who succeeded Brumby in August, could not be reached for comment.