DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - The push for transgender acceptance is making its way to funeral homes, as a transgender funeral director is taking a Christian-run business to court for refusing to accept his charade as a female.
According to arguments heard August 11 by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Anthony Stephens, who now goes by the name Aimee Stephens, was denied the "right" to dress as a woman while at work after coming out as transgender in 2013. Stephens reports he provided his employer, RG & GR Funeral Homes in Detroit, with a letter outlining his plans to undergo a "gender transition" and to inform the business he would begin appearing as a female. In response, Stephens was let go from his position two weeks later.
Lawyers from the Christian conservative Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), currently representing Thomas Rost, president and owner the funeral home, maintain the small business owner is a "devout Christian" and that his faith "informs the way he operates his business and how he presents his business to the public." The gender-specific dress code, the ADF representatives continued, is to insure families are respected in their time of mourning.
The lawsuit, initially filed in September 2014 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), with an amended version refiled in June 2015, argues Harris Funeral Homes violated "Title VII by firing an employee because [he] is transgender and did not conform to the employer's gender-based expectations, preferences, or stereotypes." Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids workplace discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex or national origin.
"We are trying to achieve a workplace free of sexual discrimination," EEOC attorney Dale R. Price, Jr. told the court. "We must enforce Title VII. We have evidence of sex-based stereotypes in this case."
The EEOC, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan in an amicus brief, is seeking either the restoration of Stephens' job and the accommodation of "gender transition," or monetary compensation for alleged damages inflicted.
ADF lawyers maintain, however, that the dress code enforced at Rost's establishments is "industry standard" and "legitimate."
The policy, ADF legal counsel Douglas Wardlow maintains, "reflects the somber and solemn nature of what's going on in the funeral home" and simply asks that "men and women dress as men and women."
In addition to being the industry norm, the dress code also reflects Rost's own "religious beliefs about human sexuality," including the tenet "that one's sex, male or female, has God-given gifts and it should not be changed and cannot be changed."
U.S. District Judge Sean Cox, a Pres. George W. Bush appointee, is expected to rule this month on the case.
The Catholic Church has clearly maintained Her position against the push for gender identity rights, with Pope Benedict XVI declaring in 2012, "The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious." Likewise, Pope Francis has denounced transgender ideology, decrying the "ideological colonization" being forced on children.