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Religious Freedom Can’t Excuse Bigotry, Says 6th Circuit While Mike Pence Covers His Ears

Yesterday, the 6th Circuit made an important ruling affirming transgender rights and I don’t want to bury that important lead or anything but… the case arises from a funeral home owner who wanted to fire his funeral director because she’s transitioning. No matter how old and allegedly wise I get, the raw stupidity of bigotry continues to amaze me. My father recently passed away. I can tell you… NO PERSONAL DETAILS about the funeral home director. NEITHER CAN MY DAD! She was a white woman, I think. She spoke English. She either didn’t get or already heard my joke when I said “just because we’re bereaved doesn’t make us saps� as she brought out the urn catalog.

The thought that at that moment I could have fixed my mind to even wonder about her genitals just boggles my mind. Who thinks like that? Who is concerned about the sexual identity or orientation of the goddamn funeral home director. BRING THEM FORTH so God may strike down more of their family members until they understand what is really important in this life.

Anyway, yeah, EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. Thomas Rost owns three funeral homes in Michigan. Aimee Stephens worked at them. But when he got the job, she was “Anthony Stephens.� Rost fired her for transitioning, claiming that her actions violated Rost’s deeply held interpretation of God’s rules, and claimed that she would spook the customers or something.

The Sixth Circuit sided with Stephens in pretty much every conceivable way. At Slate, Mark Joseph Stern has a definitive breakdown of this total victory for the transgender community. The court held:

  • Title VII bars stereotyping people on the basis of sex.
  • Discrimination against transgender individuals is sex-based discrimination.
  • Rost’s belief that he would have to “quit the businessâ€� if he employed a trans-woman was not a substantial burden under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Tolerating Stephens is not tantamount to supporting her.
  • Rost’s belief that customers would be off-put by Stephens is also not a substantial burden under RFRA. You can’t get discriminate because of the “presumed biasâ€� of your customers.
  • Even IF Rost faced a burden, which he doesn’t, the state has a compelling interest in protecting the trans community from bigotry.

I really hope Rost carries through on his threat and sells out of his business. I wouldn’t want a guy like Rost to look at my cold, dead body, much less make a buck off of it.

I’d like to imagine Mike Pence, red-faced, running into Jeff Sessions’s office with this decision in hand. “Did you see this, Mr. Attorney General?�

“Yes,� Sessions would say, calmly un-clasping the bra from around his forehead. “I am setting fire to California as we speak. That’s where all the trans people come from, don’t you know. How is your training going?�

“Good. I’m a little sore. But I’ll be ready for my man-skate-off against Adam Rippon. He won’t suspect that my sequins are actually poison darts!�

They both cackle, then the yellow phone rings. “Damn,� says Sessions, quickly gulping down a bottle of water. “It’s my turn to go pee on the President. This job certainly has its drawbacks.�

“Totally worth it though,� says Pence. “These gays don’t know the meaning of true commitment.�

Businesses Can’t Fire Trans Employees for Religious Reasons, Federal Appeals Court Rules in Landmark Decision [Slate]

Elie Mystal is the Executive Editor of Above the Law and the Legal Editor for More Perfect. He can be reached @ElieNYC on Twitter, or at [email protected] He will resist.

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Religious Freedom Can’t Excuse Bigotry, Says 6th Circuit While Mike Pence Covers His Ears


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