Earlier this week an appellate court in Illinois upheld a decision from a lower court that Hobby Lobby broke anti-discrimination laws by not allowing a trans employee to use the women’s restroom.
The case centers around Hobby Lobby employee, Meggan Sommerville, who has worked at the company for 20 years. Back in 2010, Sommerville transitioned. After identifying as a woman, Hobby Lobby refused to allow her to use the women’s restroom. The lawsuit states that this led to numerous problems for Sommerville, including having to limit how much she drank at work for fear of having to enter the men’s bathroom.
After taking Hobby Lobby to court, the ruling went in Sommerville’s favor, stating that Hobby Lobby indeed was in violation of Illinois’ anti-discrimination laws. However, Hobby Lobby sought to appeal the case, which led to the most recent trial. Nevertheless, the appellate court upheld the decision. According to Bloomberg, the court stated, “Sommerville is female, just like the women who are permitted to use the women’s bathroom. The only reason that Sommerville is barred from using the women’s bathroom is that she is a transgender woman, unlike the other women (at least, as far as Hobby Lobby knows.)” Hobby Lobby has been ordered to pay Somerville $220,000 in damages.
But according to NBC News, this decision has a much broader impact. This is the first legal decision on trans people using sex-segregated facilities, and therefore could have a big impact on courts around the country using this as precedent for siding with trans people in discrimination cases.
When speaking with the news agency, Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal said, “I think other states will generally be able to cite this ruling, because of how sweeping it is. This is not limited to employment. This is the public policy of the state of Illinois. The court went out of its way to knock down every justification for treating trans people differently in public. It made it clear there’s no justification.”