NC Family has joined twenty-three other state family policy organizations in submitting a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a funeral home whose religious liberties have come under attack. The case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has worked its way through the court system, from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, and now the U.S. Supreme Court.
Harris Funeral Homes was challenged in court after it terminated one of its employees for refusing to abide by the company’s dress code. A biologically male employee—who identifies as female—expressed an intention to begin dressing as a female at work, which was in violation of the dress code that he had agreed to when hired. After being fired, the employee filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which then sued Harris Funeral Homes in order to force them to allow the employee to dress as he saw fit. The employee argued that the funeral home was violating his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law intended to ensure equal opportunities in employment, regardless of a person’s race, religion, color, national origin, or sex. A federal district court ruled in the funeral home’s favor in August 2016; but the plaintiffs appealed, and in March 2018, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district court’s ruling. According to attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Harris Funeral Homes, the 6th Circuit attempted to “usurp the role of Congress by redefining the word ‘sex’ in federal law to mean ‘gender identity.’”
This now brings Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC to the nation’s highest court, where NC Family and many of our nationwide affiliates have signed onto an amicus brief. As the opening of the brief argues, if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the 6th Circuit’s ruling and decides that “‘transgender status’ is merely a byword for ‘sex,’” or that sex is purely determined by internal and not external factors, it will “unsettle parents’ fundamental rights in new and dangerous ways.”
If transgenderism is equated as a “sex” under federal law, then the ripple effects will be enormous. Parents could be forced to allow doctors to administer hormone therapy to a child who desires it, regardless of the child’s age. A parent’s deeply held religious views about marriage and sexuality could become a deciding factor in legal decisions about custody, adoption, and foster care. Failing to affirm transgenderism and the notion that sexual identity is self-determined and fluid would be viewed as a form of sex discrimination. Schools with “single sex” activities or private intimate facilities would no longer be protected under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and students will be able to use whatever locker room, play on whatever sports team, and sleep in whatever dorms they see fit, regardless of their biological sex.
As the brief concludes, “the child is not the mere creature of the state. Parents must nurture and direct children to prepare [them] for additional obligations. Children are created out of sexual difference, and parents are in a unique position to explain why men and women are equally valued and important, and not a matter of stereotype. The Sixth Circuit’s blithe assertion that sex, as a legal and scientific matter, is a set of stereotypes without external referent, will unsettle the legal protections that allow this important work to continue. [The U.S. Supreme Court] should reject the Sixth Circuit’s sweeping attempt to redefine ‘sex.’”
Furthermore, it is not just families who will be affected if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against Harris Funeral Homes. As a brief filed by the Women’s Liberation Front argues, “If anyone can be a woman, then no one is a woman, and sex-based protections in the law have no meaning whatsoever.” More than 1,000 female athletes and parents note, “In the long run, [a ruling that redefines sex] will undermine the legal justification for maintaining any sex-specific athletic teams, and may result in the elimination of women’s sports altogether.”
Some others who have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in this case are many members of Congress, Military Spouses United, Samaritan’s Purse, and a combined brief from the states of Tennessee, Nebraska, Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Kentucky.