R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Description: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit over the discharge of an employee who refused to comply with a Michigan funeral home’s sex-specific dress code, which requires employees to dress in a manner sensitive to grieving family members and friends. The EEOC attempted to force the business to allow a biologically male employee to wear a female uniform while interacting with the public.
U.S. Supreme Court redefines ‘sex’ in federal law
The EEOC and the American Civil Liberties Union claimed the funeral home’s decision violated Title VII—a federal law intended to ensure equal opportunities in employment regardless of a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, or sex—by redefining the word “sex” to include gender identity. The Supreme Court concluded that courts and the government may redefine that term in Title VII, even though Congress clearly did not intend that meaning when it wrote the law and is the only body with the constitutional authority to change it.
ADF will host a media briefing featuring ADF Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch at 11:30 a.m. EDT (8:30 a.m. PDT) Monday. Interested media may participate online or by calling (425) 440-5100 using guest PIN 356719#.
“Americans must be able to rely on what the law says, and it is disappointing that a majority of the justices were unwilling to affirm that commonsense principle,” said ADF Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch, who served as Michigan’s solicitor general from 2011-13 and argued the case for the funeral home. “Redefining ‘sex’ to mean ‘gender identity’ will create chaos and enormous unfairness for women and girls in athletics, women’s shelters, and many other contexts. Civil rights laws that use the word ‘sex’ were put in place to protect equal opportunities for women. Allowing a court or government bureaucrats to redefine a term with such a clear and important meaning undermines those very opportunities—the ones the law was designed to protect.”
“There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in a strongly worded dissent from the Supreme Court’s majority opinion. “The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.”
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John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and more than 30 state supreme court cases since 2011, and a recent study concluded that among all frequent Supreme Court advocates who did not work for the federal government, he had the 3rd highest success rate for persuading justices to adopt his legal position. Bursch served as solicitor general for the state of Michigan from 2011-2013. He has argued multiple Michigan Supreme Court cases in eight of the last ten terms and has successfully litigated hundreds of matters nationwide, including six with at least $1 billion at stake. As part of his private firm, Bursch Law PLLC, he has represented Fortune 500 companies, foreign and domestic governments, top public officials, and industry associations in high-profile cases, primarily on appeal. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Law School and is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.