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On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The case arose when Harris Funeral Homes, a fifth generation family business, was sued by the EEOC because of its sex-specific dress code. The question before the Court is whether the word “sex” in Title VII and other civil rights laws includes “transgender status.”
There is much at stake. A change in the law could force organizations to open women’s shelters to biological men. It could throw open the doors of locker rooms, restrooms and showers to the opposite sex. And it could erode equal opportunities for women by allowing more biological men to compete in women’s sports, depriving girls like Selina Soule a fair opportunity to compete.
Suffice - Issues - Harris - Funeral - Homes
Suffice it to say, the issues presented in Harris Funeral Homes are serious. But the question before the Court is simple.
Understanding this separation of powers, the Supreme Court’s constitutionally-designated role in this case is one of interpretation: does “sex” include transgender status? Its role is not to determine whether such inclusion would be preferable, advisable, or beneficial. Such philosophical questions belong to our elected representatives rather than to an unelected super legislature.
Justice - Breyer - Arguments - Transgender - Status
Justice Breyer acknowledged as much during oral arguments, stating that “we are deciding simply whether [transgender status] falls within the words ‘sex discrimination.’” Unfortunately, it may be that not every justice is prepared to accept this delineation of authority. Justice Sotomayor posed the following question to David Cole (emphasis added):
"You have a transgender person who rightly is identifying as a woman and wants to use the women's bedroom . . . . But there are other women who are made uncomfortable, and not merely uncomfortable, but who would feel intruded upon if someone who still had male characteristics walked into...
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