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Aimee Stephens, woman at center of transgender Supreme Court case, dies at 59

Aimee Stephens, who was at the center of a Supreme Court case regarding transgender employment rights, died at the age of 59 on Tuesday. File Photo by Charles William Kelly/ACLU
Aimee Stephens, who was at the center of a Supreme Court case regarding transgender employment rights, died at the age of 59 on Tuesday. File Photo by Charles William Kelly/ACLU

May 12 (UPI) -- Aimee Stephens, the woman at the center of a landmark Supreme Court case on transgender rights, died Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union announced. She was 59.

"With heavy hearts, we share that Aimee Stephens, our client and dear friend, whose landmark case is the first about the civil rights of transgender people to be heard by the Supreme Court, died today at home in Metro Detroit with her wife, Donna Stephens, at her side," the ACLU of Michigan wrote on Twitter.

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A GoFundMe set up on behalf of Stephens and her family said that she developed a kidney disease five years ago that required frequent dialysis. Being fired from her job caused "an immediate financial strain" leading her wife to take on several jobs.

The Supreme Court in October heard a combined employment rights case including Stephens who was fired from her job after coming out as transgender to her employer.

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Thomas Rost, the owner of R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, said Stephens was dismissed due to her intention to violate the business' dress code requiring men to wear a suit and women to wear a skirt and suit jacket.

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ACLU attorney John A. Knight, argued that the funeral home discriminated against Stephens because she is transgender and the basis provided for the firing ignored that the business was firing her "because she would be expressing herself as a woman in the workplace."

Stephens filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission alleging sex discrimination and the organization filed a lawsuit alleging the R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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A district court ruled in favor of the funeral home, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, leading the business to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court's ruling is expected sometime this year.

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