Aimee Stephens, plaintiff in transgender rights case, passes away

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DETROIT — Aimee Stephens, the plaintiff in a U.S. Supreme Court case challenging anti-transgender discrimination, has passed away from kidney disease.

The Detroit News reported that Stephens passed away on Tuesday and had been in hospice care.

From The Detroit News:

Stephens’ case was argued before the justices in October, and a ruling is expected by July. She was the first transgender person to have a civil rights complaint heard by the high court,according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented her.

“Aimee is an inspiration. She has given so many hope for the future of equality for LGBTQ people in our country, and she has rewritten history,” Stephens’ wife, Donna, said in a statement. “The outpouring of love and support is our strength and inspiration now.” 

“Aimee is a member of the LGBT movement’s Moses generation – a generation of brave pioneers who stood up to the forces of injustice and helped lead our community toward the promised land of equity and fairness,” said Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings. “It is heartbreaking that she will not get to witness the coming of that promised land for transgender people in this country, but her life will not be in vain. She will be always be remembered as a trailblazer for the generations to come.”

Lambda Legal is part of the legal team that brought Stephens’ case to the Supreme Court.

“Aimee Stephens will be remembered as a trailblazer. All of us in the LGBTQ community owe her immense gratitude for her bravery in standing up for the right of LGBTQ people to live as ourselves at work and in every aspect of our lives,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “After being fired by her employer when she told them she was transgender, she was determined to fight back and took her case all the way to the Supreme Court, where it is pending. Aimee will always be a hero to transgender and non-binary people and to the entire LGBTQ community. We share our deepest condolences with all of her friends and family, and especially her wife, Donna Stephens.”

“We are so grateful that Aimee was the one to step forward and put herself in the spotlight to fight for justice for our community,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). “Our thoughts are with her beloved wife, Donna, and all those who loved her and looked up to her. NCTE will continue to work to achieve equality for transgender people across the country in her honor.”

Stephens sued her former employer, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, when they fired her after she came out as transgender. The business’s owner believed allowing her to wear women’s closed would violate the funeral home’s dress code and he would be “violating God’s commands” if he allowed it.

A decision on Stephens case is expected this fall.

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