Unfortunately, transgender discrimination is a regular occurrence in America, and many states allow it. For those who decide to take legal action, they’re in for a messy, lengthy, costly fight that often ends in disappointment. Kate Lynn Blatt has been locked in a battle against apparel retailer Cabela’s for more than two years. The EEOC website details dozens of current legal fights in the name of trans rights. So, when Kendall Oliver actually won his case, it was a tiny victory that resonated throughout the entire community.
Oliver simply wanted to get a haircut at The Barbershop, located in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. The shop owner, Richard Hernandez, refused him service. Hernandez was adamant that Oliver was a woman, and his strict Christian beliefs prevented him from cutting a woman’s hair.
Angered by the denial, Oliver took the matter to court. His suit accused Hernandez of violating the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which guaranteed all people full access to businesses regardless of any characteristics, inclusive of gender identity.
The lawsuit settlement was announced on February 6. Hernandez admitted that he’d broken the law and agreed to settle. The resolution? The Barbershop must cut women’s hair from this point forward. According to Mercury News, the outcome was “a fair and reasonable resolution”.
Oliver was represented by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, an L.A.-based organization that helps the LGBTQ community. The case was settled in January but only announced to the public in early February.
In an official release from Lambda Legal, Oliver said, “I’m glad this is over and that the business has promised not to do to others what it did to me.”
It seems like one small victory but these small victories are needed. There needs to be a clear message sent throughout the country that this type of discrimination isn’t okay. There are people like Oliver everywhere who are being denied services because of business owners’ prejudiced beliefs.
Last January, Britney Austin won $115,000 after suing Deluxe Financial Services, Inc. for discrimination. Austin alleged that employees at its Phoenix call center had harassed her and discriminated against her. The check printing company committed to updating its employee policies and retraining its managers. It was yet another example of what happens when the law stands on the right side of history.
However, victories are few and far in between. There are often long, bitter battles that go unsolved for ages. Even worse, the trans plaintiffs end up with the short end of the stick.
In August, the EEOC lost a landmark case against a Michigan funeral home. The judge in that case ruled that the funeral home had acted within its rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was a devastating blow for both the EEOC and the trans community.
In the Trump era, we need more wins like Oliver’s to show that we deserve respect. There’s hope that not every case has to end unfavorably or drag out for years. There’s hope that we can fight back and win.