Trump admin fails to use pronouns for trans woman in Supreme Court brief

President Donald Trump speaks to the media before departing from the White House on August 21, 2019 in Washington, DC.

The Trump administration has failed to use gender pronouns for a transgender woman in 110 pages of Supreme Court documents.

Department of Justice lawyers avoided using “she” or “her” to refer to Aimee Stephens, a trans woman at the centre of a major LGBT+ discrimination case, in their brief for the case.

This is despite dozens of legal briefs in support of Stephens, a former funeral director who was fired from her job and alleges that this was because of her trans status, using her correct pronouns.

A previous appeals court ruling, which said workplace discrimination against trans people is illegal under federal civil rights law, also used Stephens’ correct pronouns.

But the DOJ and the Michigan funeral home that are asking the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court’s decision failed to use any pronouns at all for Stephens, instead using her name to refer to her.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-abortion conservative Christian law firm, is representing Michigan-based Harris Funeral Homes.

Of the lack of gender pronouns in the briefing, ADF lawyer John Bursch said, “Out of respect for Stephens and following this Court’s lead in Farmer v. Brennan … Harris tries to avoid use of pronouns and sex-specific terms when referring to Stephens.”

Farmer refers to the 1994 case of a trans prison inmate in which legal documents did not use gender pronouns.

The Trump administration’s legal filing states that Title 7 – the relevant legislation – “does not prohibit discrimination against transgender persons based on their transgender status” but offers no explanation for the lack of gender pronouns.

James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT+ HIV Project (ACLU is representing Stephens in her case), said, “It’s sad that neither the funeral home nor the Department of Justice can bring themselves to be minimally respectful of Aimee.”

“But the real tragedy is that our government is urging the Supreme Court to rule that firing workers because they are transgender is perfectly legal,” he added.

Stephens’ case is one of two landmark LGBT+ rights cases that will be heard at the high court on 8 October.