A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a Michigan funeral home violated federal civil rights law when it terminated transgender employee Aimee Stephens for deciding to dress as a woman.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an earlier court's decision that funeral home owner Thomas Rost did not violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to The Washington Times.
“Discrimination on the basis of transgender and transitioning status is necessarily discrimination on the basis of sex,” one of the judges wrote in the ruling.
Rost claimed that his religious beliefs about homosexuality and transgenderism exempted him from nondiscrimination laws, Metro Weekly reported.
Wednesday's ruling came amid a string of decisions, by President Donald Trump's administration, regarding transgenderism and religious liberty.
The Justice Department previously said the federal provision considered in Wednesday's ruling — Title VII of the 1964 civil rights law — didn't necessarily protect against discrimination based on gender identity.
“Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se," Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented Rost and claimed the ruling misinterpreted prior precedent.
“The funeral home's dress code is tailored to serve those mourning the loss of a loved one,” ADF attorney Gary McCaleb said.
“Today’s decision misreads court precedents that have long protected businesses which properly differentiate between men and women in their dress and grooming code policies,” he added.
He argued that “American business owners, especially those serving the grieving and the vulnerable, should be free to live and work consistently with their faith.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented Stephens, hailed the decision as an “important victory for transgender people and allied communities across the country.”
The ruling, ACLU attorney John Knight argued, ensured “that employers will not be able to use their religious beliefs against trans employees, ruling that there is no 'right to discriminate' in the workplace.”