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Litigation: Case Law

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Jurisdictions with Good Case Law
Marriage, Sex Designation and Name Change Cases
Discrimination
Criminal Justice
Immigration
Medical
Tax
Youth
Torts Litigation

For an up-to-date overview of all the significant transgender related case law in the U.S., including marriage, discrimination, immigration and asylum, health care, prison issues, hate crimes, see Shannon Minter, "Representing Transsexual Clients: Selected Legal Issues."


Jurisdictions with Good Case Law:

UNDER SEX DISCRIMINATION LAWS

August 18, 2008--Connecticut--Distict Court held that transgender plaintiff properly alleged that she was a member of a protected class under Title VII and Connecticut non-discrimination law because of her perceived failure to conform to gender stereotypes, but finding that the harassment she alleged was not pervasive enough to be actionable. Read the decision here.

February 16, 2006--Pennsylvania--Western District Court held that transgender employee stated valid sex discrimination claim under Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

February 6, 2006--Florida--Commission on Human Relations held that employer who fired transsexual employee violated state law against sex discrimination. Read the decision here.

February 1, 2006--California--Fair Employment & Housing Commission held that a nightclub violated state’s law prohibiting sex discrimination in public accommodations when it excluded transgender patrons. Read the decision here.

June 2, 2005--New York--In McGrath v. Toys “R” Us, Inc., the 2nd Circuit awarded attorneys’ fees to plaintiffs in the first case vindicating the rights of transsexuals to be free from discrimination in public accommodations under New York City Human Rights Law.

March 25, 2005--Cincinatti, OH--Sixth Circuit upholds officer's transgender discrimination award; Court says again: 1964 Civil Rights Act includes transgender and some gay bias. Gay Peoples Chronicle story here.

August 20, 2004--Florida--Commission on Human Relations held that transsexual employee could bring claim of sex discrimination under state law. Read the decision here.

June 1, 2004--Ohio--Sixth Circuit holds that Title VII applies to transgender people, based on their reading of Price Waterhouse, but later amends their decision to narrow its holdings. Read amended version here

October 7, 2002--Massachusetts--In Lie v. Sky Publ’g Corp., the Superior Court held that transsexual plaintiff had established a prima facie case of discrimination based on sex and disability under state law prohibiting employment discrimination.  

October 10, 2001--Massachusetts--In Jette v. Honey Farms Mini Market, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination held that transsexual people are protected by state law prohibitions against sex and disability discrimination.  

There are three states -- New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey -- in which courts have interpreted state sex discrimination laws to include transgender people.

There are three states, Connecticut, Hawai'i and Vermont, in which an administrative agencies have interpreted sex discrimination laws to protect transgender people.   

  • On April 23, 2004, the Vermont Attorney General issued a ruling prohibiting discrimination against transgender employees in the case of a former Hardwick, Vt. Police Officer who was fired because he was transgender. See GLAD press release here.
  • In July of 2002, the Hawai'i Civil Rights Commission ruled that the commission can hear sexual discrimination complaints filed by transgendered or transsexual individuals.  You can read the decision in here.
  • In November 2000, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities ruled that the state laws prohibiting sex discrimination include transgender people within those protections. See GLAD press release. 

UNDER DISABILITY LAWS

January 9, 2003--New York--In Jean Doe v. Bell, held that transsexual foster youth are bprotected by state law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in housing.

February 26, 2001--Massachusetts--In Doe v. Yunits, the Superior Court held that a transgender student had stated a viable disability discrimination claim under state law. Read GLAD's take on the case here.

October 2, 1991--Florida--In Smith v. Jacksonville Correctional Institution, the Division of Administrative Hearings held that an individual with gender dysphoria is protected by Florida Human Rights Act’s prohibitions of discrimination based on disability and perceived disability.

1988--New Hampshire--In Jane Doe v. Electro-Craft Corp., the Superior Court held that transsexualism is a disability within the meaning of state employment discrimination statute.

Courts in Massachusetts and New Jersey have also held that transsexual people are protected under state disability laws in those two states.  For the New Jersey case, Enriquez, M.D. v. West Jersey Health Systems, see TLPI press release: New Jersey Appeals Court Finds Transgender Doctor Covered by State Non-Discrimination Law. Read the actual decision here. 2001.

In addition, administrative agencies in Florida and Illinois have held that transsexual people are protected under state disability laws in those two states as well.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry has also held that transsexual people have some limited protection under Oregon disability law as well, although the scope of this is limited and does not require an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to a transitioning employee.

UNDER PERSONAL APPEARANCE NON-DISCRIMINATION STATUTES

Finally, courts in Washington, D.C. have interpreted the D.C. statute prohibiting "personal appearance" discrimination to include transgender people.

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Marriage, Sex Designation and Name Change Cases:

October 21, 2009--New York, NY--NY Appellate Court strikes down "doctor's note" requirement for name changes.  

December 2, 2003--New York, NY--Sylvia Rivera Law Project Wins Transgender Woman's Name Change Case.

September 26, 2003--Augusta, GA--Pre-op trans woman wins name change; Two-year ordeal spiraled `out of control', Augusta judge says. Southern Voice story here.

April 10, 2003-- A British transgendered woman has lost the battle to have her 22-year marriage declared legal.

April 9, 2003--Chicago, IL-- A Chicago judge Tuesday ruled a transgender male cannot be granted parental rights because same-sex marriages are illegal in Illinois and therefore the man was never the boy's legitimate father.

March 14, 2003--Warren, Ohio--A Cincinnati anti-gay group has asked a court to allow them to oppose the appeal of a heterosexual couple denied marriage because one is transsexual. Story here.But that motion was denied: May 9, 2003--Warren Ohio--The judge who denied a marriage license to a heterosexual couple because one is transgender will not be heard during their appeal. Neither will a Cincinnati anti-gay group that inserted themselves into the case. See Gay People's Chronicle story here.
December 31, 2003--Trumbull County, Ohio--Decision Made in Transsexual Marriage Case.

July 6, 2003--United Kingdom--Transsexuals win right to marry; Britain's 5,000 transsexuals who have gone through a full medical sex change are to be given the legal right to marry and have the gender changed on their birth certificate. Guardian story here.

July 23, 2004--Florida--

Florida Court of Appeals Invalidates Marriage But Rejects Mother's Request to Deprive Transgender Father of Parental Rights. The Florida Court of Appeal issued a decision today in a marriage and custody case involving Michael Kantaras, a transsexual man who married a woman in Florida and had two children with her. When Michael petitioned for divorce, his wife asked the court to invalidate their marriage and to strip Michael of any parental rights, based solely on his transgender status. After a three week trial in 2002, which was televised on Court TV, the trial court held that Michael is legally male, the marriage was valid, and awarded primary custody to Michael. The trial court's decision which surveyed all of the existing legal and medical literature on transsexualism, and which ultimately exceeded 800 pages in length -- received national attention. Release is here. Decision here. Other documents/stories:

Littleton v. Prange (1999) - Texas appellate court negates 7-year marriage of Christie Lee Littleton because she was born male-bodied. Site also contains documents related to the litigation.

In the Matter of Robert Wright Helig (2003): Maryland Appellate court remands case back to lower court, finding the lower court had erred in broadly concluding, as a matter of law, that gender was not subject to modification or adjustment, and instructing the lower court not to dismiss a transsexual women's request for a new birth certificate out of hand, but to consider medical evidence.

In Re Estate of Marshall C. Gardiner (2002). Kansas State Supreme Court declared marriage of transsexual woman J'Noel Gardiner invalid. TLPI NEWS RELEASE. Read the case here. Read a story about the case in Salon Online Magazine here.

In Re Robert Henry McIntyre (1998) - Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturns lower court decision requiring a transsexual women to have surgery before legal name change.

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International Cases:

AUSTRALIA: In Re Kevin (2001 and 2003). The Full Court of the Family Court has rejected a bid by the Federal Attorney-General to rule a marriage between a transsexual and a woman invalid. This case upholds a 2001 ruling that a marriage between a transsexual man and a woman was a valid marriage under Australian law. Read the February 2003 decision denying the appeal here.

UK: Corbett v. Corbett (1970), United Kingdom. Effectively overruled by the Goodwin and I decisions.

UK: Bellinger v. Bellinger (2003): Transgender UK Marriage Not Legal: A British transgendered woman has lost the battle to have her 22-year marriage declared legal.

EUROPE: Goodwin v. UK GovernmentI v. UK Government (2002), from the European Court of Human Rights, finds that the United Kingdom must legally recognize the post-operative sex of transsexual people.

See also:

Shannon Minter, Transgender Persons and Marriage: The Importance of Legal Planning in PDF, Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights. Also available from NCLR, 870 Market Street, Suite 570, San Francisco, CA 94102, 415-392-6257, nclrights@nclrights.org (January 2004).

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Discrimination Cases
  • Federal Cases Recognizing That Discrimination On The Basis Of Gender Non-Conformity And/Or Transgender Status Is A Form Of Discrimination On The Basis Of Sex, from the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

  • Cases Recognizing Protection for Transgender People Under State Sex and Disability Discrimination Provisions from the National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • March 25, 2005--Cincinatti, OH--Sixth Circuit upholds officer's TG discrimination award; Court says again: 1964 Civil Rights Act includes transgender and some gay bias. Gay Peoples Chronicle story here.

    December 31, 2004--Vermont--the Attorney General’s ruling established for the first time in Vermont that transgender persons are protected under the State’s anti-discrimination laws. Read more about the case Barrett-Neto v. Town of Hardwick Police Department here.

    June 2, 2004--Philadelphia, PA--City settles suit over transsexual's death; The family of entertainer Nizah Morris gets $250,000.

    June 1, 2004--Ohio--Sixth Circuit holds that Title VII applies to transgender people, based on their reading of Price Waterhouse. Read the full decision here.

    January 2, 2004--Vancouver, BC, CANADA--Court Rules Rape Center Did Not Discriminate In Refusing TG Volunteer.

    October 2003--Tronetti v. TLC Healthnet, a Title VII complaint involving a pre-operative trans person.

    May 30, 2003--New York, NY--Two transsexuals were wrongfully fired from their jobs as go-go dancers at a Chelsea nightclub because the owners wanted to hire real girls, a judge ruled yesterday.

    March 7, 2003--New York, NY--Lesbian Hairdresser Bias Suit Nixed, Case highlights complexity of gender conformity, federal law.

    February 28, 2004--Cincinatti, OH--Transsexual Police Officer Receives Additional Settlement; City Attorney Plans To Appeal Decision. Here.

    February 26, 2003--Cincinatti, OH. A federal court jury awarded $320,000 to a transsexual Cincinnati police officer who was demoted from the rank of sergeant in 1999. The jury held that the City of Cincinnati discriminated against the officer, a 22 year veteran of the force, for failing to conform to male stereotypes while serving as a probationary sergeant in 1999. The jury also held that the City of Cincinnati intentionally discriminated against Ms. Barnes based on her perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or transsexuality.

    January 16, 2003--New York, NY. Hispanic AIDS Forum v. Estate of Joseph Bruno: Judge's Rulings Favor Latino AIDS Agency in Transgender Discrimination Suit. See ACLU press release.

    November 15, 2002--Transgender Win in Massachusetts; Court finds protections based on sex, disability.

    November 15, 2002--Toys R Us May Pay Up After All; Transgender plaintiffs, awarded only $1, win big attorney's fees.

    Oiler v. Winn-Dixie, 2002. Federal district judge rules that employee who was fired because he cross-dressed off the job is not protected by federal sex discrimination law. See TLPI Press Release.

    September 24, 2002: Reuters Wire Story-- Transvestite Settles Beauty School Lawsuit.[Not our headline]

    First transgender case under 1964 Civil Rights Act is settled. See Gay People's Chronicle Story, 2002.

    Hawai'i Civil Rights Commission rules that the commission can hear sexual discrimination complaints filed by transgendered or transsexual individuals. You can read the decision here. 2002.

    DECLARATORY RULING ON BEHALF OF JOHN/JANE DOE. Connecticut Human Rights Commission Rules in Favor of Transgender People. See GLAD's website for case summary.

    Doe v. Bell: New York State Court rules that the New York City Administration for Children Services violated the New York State Human Rights Law by prohibting her from wearing skirts and dresses. January 10, 2003. See Sylvia Rivera Legal Resource Program News Release. Read case here in PDF format.

    Doe v. Yunits: GLAD obtained a landmark ruling, in the first reported decision ever in a case brought by a transgender student, that a middle school may not prohibit a transgender student from expressing her female gender identity. Disciplining a biologically male student for wearing girls clothing violates her First Amendment rights of free expression and constitutes sex discrimination. The Superior Court decision confirms that a school may not exert its authority over a student simply to enforce stereotyped ideas of how boys and girls should look, a ruling that has significant impact for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.January 2001: GLAD press release: Brockton Court Rules in Favor of Transgender Student. Petition for relief brought by Doe's attorney, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.

    Enriquez, M.D. v. West Jersey Health Systems. Transgender Law and Policy Press Release: New Jersey Appeals Court Finds Transgender Doctor Covered by State Non-Discrimination Law. Read the actual decision here. 2001.

    Hispanic AIDS Forum v. Estate of Joe Bruno, A New York Supreme Court judge ruled that a transgender person's anatomy is not relevant to gender identity. (2003)

    Julienne Goins v. West Group Petition for rehearing (PDF format) of the November 29th, 2001 decision filed by attorney for petitioner J. Goins.    Amicus brief filed in support of J. Goins' petition for rehearing.   Minnesota Supreme Court opinion, November 29, 2001.   Amici curiae brief (PDF format) filed in West's appeal of the November 21, 2000 decision.  MN Court of Appeals decision, November 21, 2000.

    Mario v. P & C Food Markets (2002) Gender Change Insurance Nixed: Federal appeals court upholds ruling that sex change surgery is merely “cosmetic”. See Art Leonard GCN story.

    Oiler v. Winn-Dixie.  ACLU Criticizes Decision in Louisiana Transgendered Case, Oiler v. Winn-Dixie

    Maffei v. Kolaeton Industries, Inc. - A state court in New York City finds that the New York City Human Right Law's prohibition against "gender" discrimination applies to a transsexual man.  Read the decision here.  1995.

    Rosa v. Park West Bank (credit discrimination case): A federal Court of Appeals found that federal sex discrimination laws applies to an individual who was discriminated against for cross-dressing, and suggested that Ulane is no longer good law. (offsite)GLAD press release (pdf file);   Same GLAD press release (off site);   Actual decision (off site).

    Schwenk v. Hartford (9th Cir., 2000) - A federal Court of Appeals found that discrimination "because one fails to act in the way expected of a man or woman" may violate federal sex discrimination laws. 2000.

    Ulane v. Eastern Airlines- A federal Court of Appeals ruled a transsexual woman was not discriminated against "because she is female, but because Ulane is a transsexual."  Upheld by the Supreme Court.  1984. Read the decision here.

    Youngblood v. Hillsborough School District:  U.S. Judge rules that requiring Nikki Youngblood to wear a frilly feminine drape for her graduation photo is not discrimination based on sex or free expression.  September 24, 2002.  See NCLR press release on this case here.

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    Criminal Justice

    September 7, 2007--Idaho-- Gammett v. Idaho State Board of Corrections: Jenniffer Spencer is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for possession of a stolen car and a failed escape attempt that occurred when she was a teenager. Since she has been incarcerated in Idaho, Spencer, a transgender woman, made repeated requests—75 in total—for treatment for her gender identity disorder (GID), but the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) failed to provide her with any appropriate care. Spencer attempted suicide when she learned that prison doctors would not provide any treatment and eventually removed her own genitals using a disposable razor blade, nearly bleeding to death in the process. On July 27, 2007, Judge Mikel Williams of the Federal District Court for the District of Idaho ruled that, based on extensive expert medical testimony, Spencer is entitled to receive female hormone therapy while her case is being decided. Judge Williams held that “gender identity disorder, left untreated, is a life-threatening mental health condition.” On September 7, 2007 Judge Williams denied a motion for reconsideration and again held that Spencer must receive hormone therapy. Jenniffer started receiving appropriate counseling and hormone treatment in Fall 2007. Because there are so few decisions addressing this important issue, this is a tremendous victory that may pave the way for other transgender prisoners who are being denied medically necessary care. Click here for the NCLR's coverage of the case.

    February 24, 2004--Wyoming--Federal judge says Wyoming prison violated due process rights of intersexual woman.

    November 28, 2003--Casper, Wyoming--Douglas hermaphrodite sues Corrections Department. A transgendered woman has sued the state Department of Corrections over her 14-month sentence at the Wyoming Women's Center.  Here.

    November 28, 2003--Washington, DC--Trans woman reports sexual assault in D.C. male cellblock. Incident prompts police to consider changing record system. Here.

    November 26, 2003--Miami, FL--A Mexican [trans woman] ]seeking asylum who was sexually abused by a guard at the Krome detention center in May 2000 has accepted $95,000 to settle a lawsuit against the federal government. 

    November 25, 2003--Concord, NH--Inmate sues prison for sex change and hormone treatments. Read the story here.

    July 18, 2003--Albany, NY--Trans Inmate Entitled to Care; Federal judge nixes prison’s policy of treating only pre-existing gender identity disorder.  

    May 27, 2003--Richmond, VA--Transsexual Ruling Reversed: The U.S. appeals court in Richmond today said a Roanoke federal judge should not have dismissed the case of a transsexual state prison inmate seeking to resume estrogen treatments.  Story here.

    March 13, 2003--Denver, CO--Transsexual Inmate Barred From Sex Treatments.  Read the story, which most definitely did not follow the AP style guide regarding proper pronoun usage, here.

    Schwenk v. Hartford (9th Cir., 2000) - A federal Court of Appeals found that discrimination "because one fails to act in the way expected of a man or woman" may violate federal sex discrimination laws. 2000.

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    Immigration

    November 29, 2004--Los Angeles--A lawsuit filed against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services alleges the agency discriminated against a Filipino couple when it denied the husband's legal residency because his wife had a sex change operation nearly 24 years ago. AP Wire story here.
    Hernandez-Montiel v. Immigration and Naturalization Service. The 9th Circuit U.S. federal court of appeals finds that a transgendered Mexican person "had a well-founded fear of future persecution and was entitled to asylum and withholding of deportation." Read amici curiae brief submitted by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and other groups (in PDF format).

    See also Applying for Asylum Based on Gender Identity Persecution from the Transgender Law Center.

    August, 2004--Washington, DC--US Government Announces Policy on Transsexual Applicants. In an interoffice memorandum, William R. Yates, Associate Director for Operations of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) announced that in its adjudication of spousal and fiancé petitions, the agency would not recognize a marriage or intended marriage where either party claims to be a transsexual. Full story on visalaw.com here. Another story on ilw.com here.

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    Medical

    May 27, 2003--Richmond, VA--Transsexual Ruling Reversed: The U.S. appeals court in Richmond today said a Roanoke federal judge should not have dismissed the case of a transsexual state prison inmate seeking to resume estrogen treatments. 

    April 19, 2003--Vancouver, BC--British Columbia Ordered To Pay For TG Surgery: The British Columbia government has been ordered to pay a transgendered man more than $125,000 (Cdn) for sex reassignment surgery.

    Mario v. P & C Food Markets (2002) Gender Change Insurance Nixed: Federal appeals court upholds ruling that sex change surgery is merely “cosmetic”.

    Beger v. Reynolds. Case involving the Medicaid denial of a request for breast reconstruction surgery: Germaine Beger's Memorandum in Support of Her Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (PDF file)

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    Tax

    February 2, 2010--Washington, DC--The U.S. Tax Court issued an important decision in O’Donnabhain v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, ruling for the first time that treatment for gender identity disorder qualifies as medical care under the Internal Revenue Code, and is therefore deductible. See GLAD's coverage of the decision here. Read the Tax Court decision here.

    January 25, 2006--Washington, DC--IRS disallows a woman's tax deduction for SRS - citing teachings in a Catholic religious journal as a basis for its decision. See report by Lynn Conway here. See web CPA article here. This ruling is being appealed.

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    Youth Cases 

    August 20, 2004--New Jersey--Federal Appellate court rules a school failed to provide a "free appropriate public education" to a student who suffered homophobic and gender stereotyping harassment. In pdf here.

    Doe v. Bell: New York State Court rules that the New York City Administration for Children Services violated the New York State Human Rights Law by prohibting her from wearing skirts and dresses.  January 1, 2003. See Sylvia Rivera Legal Resource Program News Release.  Read case here in PDF format.

    Doe v. Yunits: GLAD obtained a landmark ruling, in the first reported decision ever in a case brought by a transgender student, that a middle school may not prohibit a transgender student from expressing her female gender identity.  Disciplining a biologically male student for wearing girls’ clothing violates her First Amendment rights of free expression and constitutes sex discrimination.  The Superior Court decision confirms that a school may not exert its authority over a student simply to enforce stereotyped ideas of how boys and girls should look, a ruling that has significant impact for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. January 2001: GLAD press release).   Petition for relief brought by Doe's attorney, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.

    See also GLAD--Educational Flyer for Trans Youth in Massachusetts. Here in pdf.

    Youngblood v. Hillsborough School District:  U.S. Judge rules that requiring Nikki Youngblood to wear a frilly feminine drape for her graduation photo is not discrimination based on sex or free expression.  September 24, 2002.  See the National Center of Lesbian Rights press release on this case here.

    April 9, 2003--San Francisco, CA--Schools must protect gay kids, court rules.  A federal appeals court in San Francisco has issued a historic decision, holding school officials liable for failing to protect students from anti-gay harassment. And in another case brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, a federal court ruled April 4, 2003 that a lesbian student can sue school district for barring her from gym class.

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    Torts Litigation

    Joann Brandon v. County of Richardson, Nebraska. Amicus Curiae brief filed by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association support in support plaintiff-appellant (Brandon Teenan's mother.) In PDF format.

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    See also:

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    For more information, please contact us
    at info@transgenderlaw.org
    Last edited: 04/2/2010