A Louisiana U.S. district judge ruled Monday that the federal ban on sex discrimination does not apply to people who cross-dress, according to a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
Peter Oiler's case against the Winn-Dixie grocery store chain was dismissed, even though Winn-Dixie never claimed that Oiler's off-the-job cross-dressing interfered with his work in any way. According to the ACLU, almost 15 years ago the U.S. Supreme Court said that sex discrimination laws prevent employers from firing a person who doesn't act "like a man" or "like a woman." But that, the ACLU said, is just what Winn-Dixie did. "We believe that courts will reject the idea that only some people are protected from discrimination based on stereotypes about sex," said Ken Choe, staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
Oiler had worked for Winn-Dixie for 21 years, during which he showed up for work on time, did a good job, and followed all the rules, but in January 2000 he was fired because he cross-dresses off-duty. Oiler and his wife, Shirley, lost their health insurance and nearly lost their home. The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on Oiler's behalf, charging that Winn-Dixie violated state and federal sex discrimination laws.
"Discrimination based on gender identity is just as foolish and wrongheaded as all the other practices that deny people jobs and homes on account of something that has no bearing on ability or work ethic," said Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana ACLU. "We should speed the process by passing federal and state laws now that specifically forbid gender-identity discrimination."