17:06, May 12 135 0 theguardian.com

2020-05-12 17:06:04
'A trailblazer': woman at center of US trans rights case dies aged 59

Aimee Stephens, the woman at the center of the most important LGBTQ+ rights case to come before the US supreme court since it ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2015, has died.

Stephens, who was fired by a funeral home near Detroit, Michigan, in 2013 after she said she no longer wanted to be recognized as a man, died on Tuesday.

She was awaiting the court’s decision on whether whether federal civil rights law protects transgender people, which is expected in late June.

“Aimee did not set out to be a hero and a trailblazer but she is one, and our country owes her a debt of gratitude for her commitment to justice for all people and her dedication to our transgender community,“ said Chase Strangio, a member of Stephens’ legal team.

ACLU (@ACLU)

With heavy hearts, we must share the news that Aimee Stephens, whose landmark case was the first case about the civil rights of transgender people to be heard by the Supreme Court, died today at her home in Detroit with her wife, Donna Stephens, at her side. She was 59.

May 12, 2020

Her death was announced by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented her in her lawsuit against RG and GR Harris funeral home.

She died at home in Detroit with her wife, Donna Stephens, at her side, the ACLU said.

Stephens, 59, had kidney disease and was in hospice care. She was in a wheelchair when the court heard arguments last fall.

Stephens, a native of North Carolina, worked as an embalmer and funeral home director at Harris funeral home in Garden City. She was fired when she told her boss that she wanted to be known as Aimee, not Anthony, and would report to work wearing a conservative skirt suit or dress.

Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio)

I am sorry Aimee. We will never stop fighting for you. ❤️

May 12, 2020

The issue for the supreme court is whether federal civil rights law, which bars job discrimination on the basis of sex, protects transgender people.

Less than half of the 50 states in the US have specific civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people. Nearly a third (29%) of transgender people live in poverty, compared with 12% in the US population, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“I’ve come to learn since [2013] that there really is no protection for LGBTQ people,” Stephens told the Guardian last year. “That you can be fired from your job, you could be evicted from your housing. You can be denied medical care and that’s when I started to realize that it is much bigger than what I thought.”

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