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Today is Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Appeals Court Rejects Complaint over Transgendered Person

[MINNEAPOLIS, MN] - The Minneapolis school district met its legal obligations when it offered alternate facilities to a teacher who objected to using the same restroom as a transgendered employee, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

Carla Cruzan, who was a teacher at Southwest High School, sued the district, saying it discriminated against her by allowing a formerly male coworker to use the women' s faculty restroom. She said the policy violated her religious freedom and created a hostile work environment based on sex.

U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled in favor of the school district last year, after the Minnesota Department of Human Rights rejected Cruzan' s discrimination claim. She then appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In affirming Doty' s decision, a three-judge appeals panel noted that Cruzan had access to several other restrooms that the transgendered employee, Debra Davis, did not use.

Appeals Judges David Hansen, George Fagg and Pasco Bowman said the district' s decision to allow Davis to use the women' s faculty restroom did not create a hostile work environment, and that Cruzan failed to make a case that she had suffered religious discrimination.

" This is a watershed victory that tells employers and businesses nationwide that they can' t deny a transgendered person basic rights based on someone' s dislike for the person, " said Tamara Lange, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who wrote a friend of the court brief supporting the school district.

Davis, who was a librarian, began living as a woman in the spring of 1998 and retired last year after working for Minneapolis schools for 32 years. She is now executive director of the nonprofit Gender Education Center in Minneapolis.

Davis said she was pleased by the ruling. " My appropriate behavior did not create a hostile environment for others, " she said. " The fact that I exist as a transgendered person doesn' t disciminate against other' s religious beliefs."

But Cruzan said, " My concern is that this is a Trojan horse for women across the nation, because when men can come into our rest rooms regardless of our biology ... this is just going to make us more vulnerable, to say nothing of privacy and modesty issues."

Cruzan, who took a leave of absence this past school year but expects to return to work somewhere in the district this fall, said she would check with her lawyer to see what happens next.

" This is crazy, " she said. " We don' t need men in our rest rooms when ... he' s just playing at being female. This is not right."

Steve Karnowski can be reached at skarnowski(at)ap.org

On the Net:

Debra Davis' s Web site: http://www.debradavis.org

8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/index.html

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