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Mahanoy v. B.L.

UPDATE: June 23, 2021 – Victory! On June 23rd, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of high school student B.L. in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. This important ruling protects students’ freedom of speech off-campus, and is especially significant for students of historically marginalized backgrounds who experience disproportionate levels of discipline and scrutiny at school. Read the ruling here.

GLAD joined a friend-of-the-court brief in Mahanoy v. B.L., a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief raises important issues about the potential impact of the Court’s decision in this case on students from historically marginalized backgrounds who experience disproportionate levels of harassment and school discipline, including LGBTQ students and students of color. We urge the Court to issue a ruling that allows schools to address off-campus speech that targets and invades the rights of students, but does not enable over-policing of out of school free speech.

Read NWLC’s blog post to learn more.

The brief was signed by the following organizations:

  • National Women’s Law Center
  • Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
  • California Women Lawyers
  • Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues
  • Coalition of Labor Union Women
  • Equal Rights Advocates
  • Equality California
  • Faculty Against Rape
  • Family Equality
  • Gender Justice
  • GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs
  • KWH Law Center for Social Justice and Change
  • Legal Aid at Work
  • Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • National Organization for Women Foundation
  • National Workrights Institute
  • Network for Victim Recovery of DC
  • People for the American Way Foundation
  • PFLAG National
  • Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

Fulton v. City of Philadelphia

UPDATE: On June 17, 2021, the Supreme Court issued a narrow and limiting ruling for Catholic Social Services that focuses on specific contractual language. The ruling leaves intact the broader principle that governments can require contractors, including religious agencies, to comply with nondiscrimination laws – including those that protect same-sex married couples – when providing taxpayer-funded social services. While the Court found Philadelphia’s contract with CSS to be unenforceable, it did so because the contract allowed individual discretionary exemptions on a case-by-base basis but would not consider CSS’s claim. The case stemmed from a claim by Catholic Social Services that it should have been allowed to decline to work with same-sex couples when providing foster care placement services under contract with the City of Philadelphia. Read GLAD’s full statement.

Watch the virtual briefing about what the ruling means for the LGBTQ community.

In 2018, the City of Philadelphia suspended a contract with Catholic Social Services (“CSS”) to provide foster care placement services because the agency refused to work with married same-sex couples and unmarried couples, violating Philadelphia’s nondiscrimination ordinance. CSS sued the city, claiming, among other things, that the City’s actions violated its rights of free exercise of religion. Seeking an injunction* against the City, CSS lost in the federal trial court and then again on appeal. The case was heard by the Supreme Court on November 4, 2020 (audio available here).

Fulton is poised to be a landmark case on the question of whether religiously-based social welfare organizations that receive taxpayer dollars through local government contracts can be exempt from the government’s nondiscrimination laws. There is a possibility that a decision in Fulton could come to mean that nearly any religious entity, or even a private company asserting its religious beliefs, would have permission to refuse to serve or work with anyone simply because of who they are.

So many people rely on government-funded entities like CSS to fulfill essential needs — for food, housing, health care, and more. This case could lay the foundation for the reversal of protections on which the most vulnerable in our community rely to ensure equal access to goods and services. It could also require the government at all levels to fund discriminatory groups. That’s why GLAD, joined by 27 other national, regional, and state LGBTQ advocacy organizations, filed a friend-of-the-court brief on August 20, 2020 in support of the City of Philadelphia’s position, urging the U.S. Supreme Court not to introduce a broad exemption to nondiscrimination laws that would undermine Constitutional equal protection guarantees and introduce a dangerous and unworkable scheme into local, state, and federal lawmaking.

View GLAD’s brief here or click here to read all of the filings in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.

YouTube video

Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail Inc.

Update 5/18/17: In a landmark ruling, a federal district court in Pennsylvania ruled on May 18 that a transgender woman’s employment discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can move forward. The opinion marks the first time a court has ruled that transgender people are not categorically barred from seeking relief from discrimination under the ADA.

Case Background

This case challenges the constitutionality of the exclusion of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) from the definition of disability in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A December 2015 hearing in the case marked the first opportunity for the constitutional arguments for striking the transgender exclusion written into the ADA to be fully laid out in court. GLAD submitted an amicus brief and provided consultation on the case.

The federal district court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania heard argument December 10. The hearing marked the first opportunity for the constitutional arguments for striking the transgender exclusion written into the ADA to be fully laid out in court. Read more

The Department of Justice submitted a statement of interest, in which it urged the court to ignore the ADA’s GID exclusion in order to avoid a constitutional problem raised by the ADA’s unfair treatment of transgender claimants. Noting that when the law passed in 1990, it explicitly excluded from its protections people with GID except for those whose GID results from “physical impairments,” DOJ said that transgender people should be able to pursue ADA claims “because a growing body of scientific evidence suggests” that being transgender may have a physical origin.

GLAD and fellow amici submitted this statement in response to the statement of the DOJ.

Update 9/21/15: U.S. District Judge Joseph Leeson issued an order instructing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to intervene or file a supplemental statement of interest on or before November 16, 2015, regarding the constitutionality of the GID exclusion in the ADA. The DOJ had previously declined to weigh in on the question. Argument in the case is scheduled for December 10, 2015.

Case Background

GLAD has filed a brief of amici curiae and is providing consultation in the case of a Pennsylvania transgender woman, Kate Lynn Blatt, challenging the constitutionality of the exclusion of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) from the definition of disability in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

GLAD’s brief asserts that the GID exclusion in the ADA violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and that the updated diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria (GD) in fact falls outside the scope of that exclusion as defined in the law.

The brief lays out the clear animus towards transgender people demonstrated in the legislative record in the debate on the GID exclusion, as well as the erroneous inclusion of GID with “sexual behavior disorders” at the time of the exclusion’s adoption.

Calling out the exclusion as “blatant, legally-sanctioned prejudice against transgender people,” the brief argues that by maintaining it the ADA perpetuates the very thing it seeks to dismantle: “’the prejudiced attitudes or ignorance of others” and the ‘inferior status’ that people with disabilities – or those “regarded-as” by others as having a disability – occupy in society.

Read the full brief

About the Case

Following a formal diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria (GD) in 2005, Kate Lynn Blatt took steps to live in accordance with her female gender identity, including changing her name, growing her hair long and wearing female clothing.

Blatt was hired as a Seasonal Stocker at Cabela’s Retail in the fall of 2006. She attended a two-day orientation dressed in female attire, and used the women’s employee restroom without issue.

Once she started working, however, Blatt was prohibited from using the women’s restroom and was forced to wear a nametag depicting her name as “James,” even after she presented the director of human resources with documentation of her legal name change. Blatt was made to use the single-sex “family” restroom at the front of the store, rather than the female employee restroom closer to her work area. She also endured harassment from management and coworkers, and was abruptly terminated in March, 2007.

Blatt is pursuing charges under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – on the grounds that Cabela’s discriminated against her based on her sex – and the ADA – on the grounds that Cabela’s refused her reasonable accommodation in the form of an appropriate nametag and use of an appropriate restroom.

Cabela’s has filed a partial motion to dismiss on the premise that Blatt’s GD does not constitute a disability under the ADA.

Blatt is represented by Sidney L. Gold, Neelima Vanguri and Brian Farrell of Sidney L. Gold & Associates.