WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that courts and federal agencies can exceed their constitutional boundaries and redefine what “sex” means in federal law. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent the Michigan funeral home at the center of the case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The dispute arose when the funeral home declined an employee’s request to violate the company’s sex-specific dress code by dressing and presenting as the opposite sex when meeting with grieving family members.
The EEOC and the American Civil Liberties Union claimed the funeral home’s decision violated Title VII—a federal law intended to ensure equal opportunities in employment regardless of a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, or sex—by redefining the word “sex” to include gender identity. The Supreme Court concluded that courts and the government may redefine that term in Title VII, even though Congress clearly did not intend that meaning when it wrote the law and is the only body with the constitutional authority to change it.
ADF will host a media briefing featuring ADF Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch at 11:30 a.m. EDT (8:30 a.m. PDT) Monday. Interested media may participate online or by calling (425) 440-5100 using guest PIN 356719#.
“Americans must be able to rely on what the law says, and it is disappointing that a majority of the justices were unwilling to affirm that commonsense principle,” said ADF Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch, who served as Michigan’s solicitor general from 2011-13 and argued the case for the funeral home. “Redefining ‘sex’ to mean ‘gender identity’ will create chaos and enormous unfairness for women and girls in athletics, women’s shelters, and many other contexts. Civil rights laws that use the word ‘sex’ were put in place to protect equal opportunities for women. Allowing a court or government bureaucrats to redefine a term with such a clear and important meaning undermines those very opportunities—the ones the law was designed to protect.”
“There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in a strongly worded dissent from the Supreme Court’s majority opinion. “The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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