The U.S. Department of Justice says gender dysphoria appears to have a physical cause, thus it’s not necessarily excluded as a protected disability by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The DOJ took this position in a federal case pursued by Kate Blatt, a Pottsville trans woman who says Cabela’s Inc. discriminated against her due to her gender dysphoria.
Blatt worked at Cabela’s as a seasonal stocker, but was fired after complaining that she was denied access to a female restroom and a female name tag. Blatt claims Cabela’s discriminated against her due to her gender dysphoria.
Moreover, Blatt challenges the ADA’s exclusion of gender-identity disorder as a protected disability. She maintains the exclusion violates her constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
The ADA protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in private employment, public accommodations and governmental services. But it excludes coverage for GIDs that have a mental cause.
The ADA doesn’t specify the types of GIDs with a non-mental cause, but legal observers generally agree that hermaphroditism would be included in that category.
In a seven-page filing Nov. 16, the DOJ said gender dysphoria also would be covered by the ADA, since it appears to have a physical cause, according to recent medical literature.
“Numerous medical studies conducted in the past six years point in the direction of hormonal and genetic causes for the in-utero development of gender dysphoria,” the DOJ’s filing states.
The DOJ urged U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Leeson Jr. to avoid ruling on Blatt’s challenge of the GID exclusion, since it doesn’t necessarily apply in her case.
“While no clear scientific consensus appears to exist regarding the specific origins of gender dysphoria (for example, whether it can be traced to neurological, genetic or hormonal sources), the current research increasingly indicates that gender dysphoria has physiological or biological roots,” the DOJ filing notes.
The DOJ said its position is reasonable and should be accepted by Leeson.
“While the United States believes that this is the best interpretation of the statute, it is, at the very least, a reasonable one.”
Neelima Vanguri, an attorney for Blatt, expressed mixed feelings about the DOJ’s position.
“While we do believe gender dysphoria has a physical component, the DOJ did not address the constitutional question of GID’s exclusion,” Vanguri told PGN. “We believe GID’s exclusion — at its core — is unconstitutional. And we plan to develop this argument further for the court.”
In a prior filing, the DOJ argued that Leeson should avoid ruling on the GID-exclusion issue because Blatt also has a sex-discrimination claim against Cabela’s that can provide compensation for her.
But Leeson rejected that argument, and told the DOJ to take another position.
Cabela’s claims Blatt was properly dismissed after she threatened a coworker’s child — an allegation Blatt vehemently denies.
“Cabela’s maintains it did not discriminate or retaliate against Ms. Blatt in any way, and acted at all times pursuant to legitimate nondiscriminatory business reasons,” Cabela’s said in a court filing.
The DOJ hasn’t taken a position on the merits of Blatt’s claims against Cabela’s.