(Oakland, CA) – Yesterday, Transgender Law Center joined organizations across the country in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to reject discrimination as it considers Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The brief, submitted by Transgender Law Center and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP on behalf of Transgender Law Center, Southerners on New Ground (SONG), GSA Network, and TransLatina Network, details the harm that a ruling sanctioning discrimination would cause transgender and gender non-conforming people of color and highlights the resilience of the transgender and gender non-conforming community.  The brief also outlines why the U.S. Supreme Court should follow well established legal precedent that has consistently not allowed the creation of exceptions to an otherwise valid and necessary civil rights protection based on freedom of speech or religious objections.

“Nobody should be turned away or denied service just because of who they are,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “Allowing businesses to pick and choose which laws to follow would have devastating consequences for transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, who already face intense discrimination in every aspect of life.”

The brief (available below and here) shares several stories of discrimination faced by transgender and gender non-conforming people and the impact that discrimination has had on their lives. Some of the stories involve discrimination in “expressive” services like that at issue in the case. Beverly, a transgender Latina woman, was turned away from a hair salon once her stylist learned she was transgender, with the stylist citing religious objections. Beverly’s feelings of shame and embarrassment from this incident followed her for years and made it impossible for her to visit a salon again. She learned to cut her own hair as a result and, after years of work, is hoping to open her own salon that will be welcoming to all people.

Other stories in the brief highlight the devastating effects of discrimination in housing, medical care, employment, and public accommodations, including the physical violence against transgender people that can result from discrimination. Jaime, a transgender Latina woman from Los Angeles, applied to college hoping to become a flight attendant after high school. The dean of the college and an airline she later interviewed with both told her she could not become a flight attendant because she is a transgender woman. She panicked and felt all opportunities were closed to her because of who she is, and turned to sex work for survival. She has since left the sex industry and still has hope of one day becoming a flight attendant, but remains terrified of people finding out she is trans.

These are just two of over a dozen stories detailed in the brief, many of which are available here: https://transgenderlawcenter.org/legal/discrimination-stories.

Transgender Law Center hopes the U.S. Supreme Court concludes that a safe harbor for discrimination in the public market place based on “expressive” or religious objections would gut the necessary protection these laws afford to the TGNC community, as well as others, and that it rules that laws prohibiting discriminatory conduct must be enforced as written.

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Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender non-conforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation. 

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