BLOGWhy You Should Care About the Outcome of the Harris Funeral Homes Supreme Court Case

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | January 22, 2020

How could a decision in a U.S. Supreme Court case about a Michigan funeral home impact you?

Pretty significantly, as it turns out.

The Background

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) will appear before the U.S. Supreme Court on October 8 to represent R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, a Michigan funeral home that has been the target of a lawsuit since 2013.

Here’s how it all started.

Harris Funeral Homes and its owner, Tom Rost, hired a male funeral director in 2007. At the time of hire, that funeral director agreed to abide by the employee professional dress code and did so for six years. Tom created this code to ensure the grieving families Harris Funeral Homes serves can focus on the healing process and not the funeral home or its employees.

Nearly six years later, in 2013, that same funeral director handed Tom a letter. The letter informed Tom that the funeral director intended to start dressing and presenting as a woman while interacting with grieving families at work. After considering the needs of the funeral director, his other employees, and the people his funeral home serves, Tom concluded that he could not agree to the funeral director’s plan. So they parted ways.

The funeral director filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an unelected federal agency, alleging that the funeral home had engaged in sex discrimination. The EEOC filed a lawsuit against Harris Funeral Homes, seeking to redefine “sex” in federal employment law to mean “transgender status,” even though Harris’s policies were in accord with federal law and industry standards.

And while the federal government has since changed course and now agrees with Tom and Harris Funeral Homes, the ACLU continues to push this lawsuit forward in an attempt to do in the courts what it has been unable to do in Congress.

What a Win Would Mean

A win at the Supreme Court would be a significant victory for Tom and Harris Funeral Homes. As a fifth-generation family business, Harris has been serving its community with excellence for over 100 years.

But a win for Harris would be a win for you as well!

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Harris Funeral Homes, the court would make it clear that unelected officials cannot redefine the law – only Congress has that power. In other words, a win will protect our Constitution and the separation of powers that keeps our government in check, ensuring that our God-given rights are protected. All Americans and American businesses should be able to rely on what the law says, not what an unelected government official would like it to say.

What a Loss Would Mean

On the other hand, if the Supreme Court rules against Tom and Harris Funeral Homes – redefining “sex” to include “transgender status” in federal law – it would have widespread consequences for everyone:

  1. It could undermine equal opportunities for women — allowing men who say there are women to take women’s athletic awards and scholarships, as in Connecticut, where two boys identifying as girls have won 15 track-and-field state titles in the past two years.
  2. It would jeopardize the dignity and privacy of women — forcing organizations to open women’s shelters, locker rooms, and restrooms to men who believe themselves to be women, as in Anchorage, where the city commission tried to force a shelter to allow a man claiming to be a woman to sleep mere feet away from women who had been raped, trafficked, and abused.
  3. It could require doctors to participate in (and employers to pay for) hormone blockers or surgery to cosmetically change someone’s body to appear as the opposite sex. This would violate religious beliefs — sacrificing freedom of conscience.
  4. It would compel professionals from all walks of life to refer to colleagues with pronouns and other sex-specific terms according to identity rather than biology — threatening freedom of speech.
  5. It would put employers like Tom in difficult situations — requiring them to treat men who believe themselves to be women as if they are in fact women, even if that results in violating the bodily privacy rights of other employees. A male who says he is a female could not be turned down for a female-only position counseling women sexual-abuse survivors or supervising showers at a female-only prison.

Chances are, you fall into one of the categories above. And if you don’t, you know someone who does. The bottom line is a change like this in federal law would cause chaos.

What You Can Do

Your prayers and support are vital as our ADF attorneys prepare to argue before the Supreme Court next week. Pray that the legal team would communicate the best arguments. Pray for the Justices as they prepare to hear the arguments. Pray for the former employee who is suing Harris Funeral Homes. And please pray for Tom and Harris Funeral Homes as they carry the burden of this lawsuit.

Also consider sharing this blog post on social media to spread the word about this important case!

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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