GARDEN CITY, Mich (FOX 2) - A funeral home director says she was fired after telling her boss she was transgender. After filing a lawsuit her case is the first transgender rights case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Aimee Stephens is a transgender woman, she’s 58-years-old and was fired from her job at Harris Funeral Home in Garden City in 2013 for coming out at work.
“It’s not just my fight, it’s a lot of different people,” Stephens said.
It had been a difficult decision to do so, but she couldn’t go on living a double life, a woman at home, a man at work.
She says the year before she contemplated suicide, she put a gun to her chest but couldn’t pull the trigger.
“I realized that I liked me too much and I made the choice to live and that’s where all this started,” she said.
Aimee says it took several months to compose a letter to her boss, explaining what was going on, she told him she was going on vacation and would return as her true self, Aimee Stephens, dressed as a woman, not as Anthony Stephens, dressed as a man.
“Basically that’s when all hell broke loose,” she said.
The owner said no, and offered Aimee a severance package but Aimee and her wife said no, instead contacting the AClU and winning a case with the equal employment opportunity commission that said Aimee had been discriminated against based on her sex, violating title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
A case that’s been appealed and is now being heard at the Supreme Court in October.
“The legal issue is the meaning of sex discrimination in federal employment in 1964 and sex didn’t have anything to do with transgender status it only had to do with being male or female,” Attorney John Bursch said.
Bursch is with the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing the owner of Harris Funeral Home.
“He decided what was the best decision was to abide by the sex specific dress code and that’s how he ended up being in the U.S. Supreme Court,” Bursch said.
“What’s at stake here is whether federal Civil Rights Laws protect LGBT people from discrimination,” Kaplan said.
Jay Kaplan with the ACLU of Michigan says the stakes are high for the LGBT community and with the Supreme Court now overwhelmingly conservative, the outcome is anything but clear.
“We are hoping we are cautiously optimistic that they’re going to resolve this the right way and uphold Aimee’s favorable decision,” Kaplan said.
For Aimee, who’s been quite ill, it’s been a long road but one she felt she had to travel.
“If you’re not true to yourself then you can’t be true to anybody else and if you’re not willing to stand up for yourself nobody else is going to,” Stephens said.
Aimee says she plans to be there at the Supreme Court in October, despite her health issues, a ruling is likely to come down in June.