Kansas is part of a national battle over transgender discrimination in the workplace. Attorney General Derek Schmidt joined a 16 state group to take the case to the Supreme Court.
It all started when a Michigan funeral home fired a worker for coming out as transgender. That began a heated legal battle. Kansas is part of a group of 16 states who are defending the funeral home’s decision.
Local transgender activist Stephanie Mott says Kansas’s involvement is disappointing, but not out of character.
“I’m not really surprised. Kansas has never really recognized transgender identity and the fact that we’re human beings and just like everyone else,” Mott said.
The case comes down to a legal argument over whether or not a civil rights act from the 60s protects transgender people from discrimination in the work place. Kansas and the other states are saying it doesn’t. Steve Cann is a political science professor at Washburn University.
“They like a narrow interpretation of the term sex in the 1964 Civil Rights Act which forbids discrimination on the base of sex. They don’t want sexual preference to be part of gender or sex,” Cann said.
KSN News reached out to Attorney General Schmidt, and he refused to go on camera for this story. He did send a statement, saying that he’s arguing for a narrow interpretation of the Civil Rights Act, and that it’s up to congress, not the courts to change that.
Mott says fights like these send a dangerous message to young people.
“Children die, youth commit suicide, are more likely to be involved in substance abuse, are more likely to be homeless, are more likely to meet with violence. All those things happen when identity is invalidated. When Kansas joined this brief, that’s what they were saying is you don’t have the same rights as everyone else,” Mott said.
For the LGBT community, this fight is bigger than this one case. No matter the legal decision, Mott says there’s still hope.
“I think that we have an opportunity to put people into leadership in our state that actually care about dignity and respect for all human beings, and not just the limited number that are like them,” Mott said.
States come together in cases like these, because whatever the Supreme Court decides will have nationwide consequences. For Kansas, this is an attempt to protect employer’s rights.