ADF: Supreme Court Delivers a Troubling Decision Against Harris Funeral Homes

Americans should be able to rely on what the law says.

Unfortunately, it seems the U.S. Supreme Court does not agree.

Today, the Supreme Court ruled against our client Harris Funeral Homes. In doing so, the Court has delivered a truly troubling decision: Unelected officials and courts can effectively rewrite laws — forcing Americans to guess what the law means — including something as fundamental as the meaning of “sex.”

Alliance Defending Freedom has represented Harris Funeral Homes since 2013. That year, a male funeral director expressed the intent to begin dressing and presenting as a woman at work while interacting with grieving families. This funeral director had worked at Harris Funeral Homes for nearly six years and agreed to abide by the sex-specific dress code throughout that time.

Harris Funeral Homes has professional conduct and dress codes to ensure that the grieving families it serves can focus on healing and not on the funeral home or its employees. Such policies are not unusual. In fact, they are consistent with industry standard. Not to mention that federal law allows such policies.

Ultimately, Tom Rost—owner of Harris Funeral Homes—decided he could not agree to the funeral director’s plan, and they parted ways.

That prompted the funeral director to file a complaint against Harris for employment discrimination, which led the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an unelected federal agency, to sue the funeral home. To justify this, the federal government insisted that the word “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act includes “gender identity.” A lower court agreed.

The federal government changed its position to support Tom. But the ACLU intervened and continued to push for “sex” to be redefined to include “gender identity” in federal law.

This case was combined with two others seeking to redefine “sex” to also include “sexual orientation.” The Court heard arguments in these combined cases on October 8, 2019.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that unelected officials and courts do have the authority to redefine the law—bypassing Congress—and that “sex” in Title VII includes “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.”

This is devastating news for Harris Funeral Homes, which has faithfully served grieving families for more than 100 years. Please pray for this family-owned business. And pray as well for all Americans. Because this ruling has implications for us all.

The Troubling Implications

Redefining “sex” to mean “gender identity” creates chaos, with widespread consequences for everyone.

  • It undermines dignity, privacy, and equal opportunities for women.
  • It could compel professionals from all walks of life to refer to colleagues with pronouns and other sex-specific terms according to gender identity rather than biology.
  • It puts employers like Tom in difficult positions—requiring them to treat men who believe themselves to be women as if they are in fact women, even if that results in violating the bodily privacy rights of other employees.

The bottom line is that ignoring biological reality in our laws threatens our freedoms of conscience, religion, and speech.

There’s more.

By ruling in the similar case decided today that “sex” in federal employment law also includes “sexual orientation,” the Court made it more difficult for employers and employees who hold the longstanding, honorable belief that marriage is only between one man and one woman.

The ruling could prohibit a religious employer from declining to recognize a same-sex relationship as a “marriage” for purpose of benefits. It could subject a small business owner to liability if she discusses her beliefs about marriage while at work. It could even result in an employee being disciplined or fired for even mentioning her beliefs about marriage, as happened to Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was fired as Atlanta’s Fire Chief after writing a small book about his beliefs in Christ and about marriage for his private, men’s Bible study.

That is why this Supreme Court ruling should concern us all.

But we should not lose hope! Although we are extremely disappointed by the decision, consider these words from Pastor Jack Robert after the Supreme Court twice denied to hear his case involving church use of public school buildings in New York City for worship services:

Walking through this long and winding experience, I have realized that “victory” is not measured in a court’s decision, but in how well and how faithfully Jesus and His Truth (the Gospel) are represented. We are called to be faithful and true messengers – not necessarily “winners.” The fact that our case was ultimately rejected (a second time) by the U.S. Supreme Court meant that we would not get to participate in the final outcome of these crucial legal issues. This continues to remind me that we are only one tiny part of what God is doing; we don’t have the right to demand to see the conclusion. Being faithful in our own divine assignment will enable others, in turn, to do their part – and perhaps they will see the conclusion. Regardless, God will have the last, and best, word.

We often talk about how all our work is in God’s hands. We are called to do our very best and to follow God’s will, no matter the outcome, because God has a plan that we cannot begin to understand, a plan that is much bigger and better than anything we can imagine.

Let’s continue to be faithful and true in our divine assignments, just as Harris Funeral Homes acted so courageously in pursuing this case. God will take care of the rest!

This post originally appeared on the Alliance Defending Freedom website.

Published June 16, 2020