Should government bureaucrats and judges have the power to redefine “sex” to mean “gender identity” in federal law?
That’s the question the U.S. Supreme Court will consider in October, when Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes will appear before the Court.
The answer – given by a diverse array of groups, officials, and experts who filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the Court in support of Harris Funeral Homes – was a resounding “no.”
Harris Funeral Homes asks all its employees to agree to a code of conduct and a sex-specific dress code when they are hired. Tom Rost, the owner of Harris Funeral Homes, has these policies to ensure that families can focus on the grieving process, rather than on the funeral home and its employees.
But one day a male funeral director – who had worked at Harris Funeral Homes for nearly six years – informed Tom of the intent to begin dressing and presenting as a woman while interacting with grieving families. This was a surprise to Tom, and he had to consider the interests of everyone involved – the funeral director, his other employees, and the grieving people the funeral home serves. Ultimately, as Tom thought and prayed about the decision, he knew he couldn’t agree to the funeral director’s proposal. So Harris Funeral Homes parted ways with the funeral director.
Because of this decision, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency, sued Tom and Harris Funeral Homes for sex discrimination, and attempted to redefine “sex” to mean “gender identity.”
Eventually, the federal government reversed course and now agrees with Harris Funeral Homes. But the ACLU has taken up the case and is trying to redefine federal law.
This change would have widespread consequences. It would not only cause chaos for business owners like Tom, but also jeopardize the privacy rights and equal opportunities of women and girls. This is bad legal policy, and it should not be adopted. Yet if a change like that were to ever occur, only Congress has the authority to do it.
But don’t take my word for it. Here are just a few quotes from the many briefs – submitted by members of Congress; state attorneys general; feminists; female athletes; privacy groups; religious groups; legal, medical, and policy scholars; and others – supporting Harris Funeral Homes.
“Under our Constitution, contentious policy disputes are resolved by the people, through their elected representatives in Congress. The extension of Title VII to protect … gender identity raises a complex set of concerns and potentially far-reaching consequences. These issues merit thoughtful consideration and the deliberative participation of the people.”
“Sensitive policy decisions, such as whether to extend federal anti-discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, are for Congress, not the courts. And when the courts usurp Congress’s policymaking authority, they both circumvent constitutional structures designed to protect the states’ interests and prematurely halt legislative efforts at the state level.”
“[I]nterpreting ‘sex’ in Title VII to encompass gender identity and sexual orientation would similarly raise a host of issues for employers. Contrary to the blithe assertions of other amici, compliance would not be simple. Indeed one of the largest rights advocacy groups has issued an 85-page ‘toolkit’ to educate employers on means to avoid discrimination based on gender identity.”
“If, as a matter of law, anyone can be a woman, then no one is a woman, and sex-based protections in the law have no meaning whatsoever. The ruling below [at the lower court] effectively repeals the sex-based protections in Title VII—a ruling that Congress surely did not intend.”
“In the short term, a ruling in favor of [those trying to redefine federal law without Congress] will reduce the number of athletic opportunities for biological women and girls. In the long run, it will undermine the legal justification for maintaining any sex-specific athletic teams and may result in the elimination of women’s sports altogether.”
Please join us in praying for this case and stay tuned as Supreme Court oral arguments approach on October 8, 2019 R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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