The Supreme Court’s decision to not take up a case regarding the protection of individuals with gender dysphoria under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has sparked controversy. The court’s decision, issued on June 30, to deny the petition for certiorari in the case of Kincaid v. Williams has been seen by many as a victory for the transgender rights movement. However, this decision was met with opposition from two conservative justices.
In order for a case to move forward, at least four out of the nine justices must vote to grant the petition. In this case, the court dismissed the petition without disclosing the results of the justices’ vote. Justice Samuel Alito, in his dissenting opinion, argued that the court should have accepted the case in order to address an issue of “great national importance.”
The case in question involves Kesha Williams, a former detainee in Fairfax County, Virginia, who identifies as female but was born male. Williams filed a lawsuit against the county, claiming mistreatment and discrimination based on her gender identity. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled in Williams’ favor, which covers only the states within that circuit.
Gender dysphoria is defined as the intense discomfort or distress experienced by individuals whose sex at birth does not align with their gender identity. The Supreme Court previously recognized the concept of gender identity in a 2020 ruling, where it stated that employees cannot be fired based on discrimination over their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Williams’ story dates back to 2018 when she was incarcerated by Fairfax County. Initially placed in women’s housing, Williams was later moved to men’s housing. She claimed that her prescription hormone medication was taken away and that she faced harassment from fellow inmates and guards. Williams also alleged that her requests for private showers and body searches performed by female deputies were denied.
The 4th Circuit found that the definition of “gender identity disorder,” which was in use when the ADA was enacted, has since been removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The court interpreted the statute to cover gender dysphoria to avoid potential discrimination against transgender individuals, which would contradict the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Justice Alito criticized the lower court’s reasoning, pointing out that the broad language used by Congress in the ADA encompasses not only “gender dysphoria” but also “other sexual behavior disorders.” He raised concerns about various issues related to gender dysphoria, such as participation in women’s sports, access to gender-specific facilities, use of pronouns, and the provision of sex reassignment therapy in hospitals and by physicians who have objections based on religious or moral grounds.
The attorneys representing both parties in the case, Alexander Francuzenko and Katherine Lynn Herrmann, did not respond to requests for comment. However, Herrmann expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision to let her client’s litigation continue, emphasizing the importance of ensuring equal protection for individuals with gender dysphoria.
While the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case may be seen as a victory for transgender rights, there are concerns about the broader implications of this ruling. The issue of protecting individuals with gender dysphoria under the ADA remains unresolved, leaving room for further legal battles and ongoing discussions on the rights of transgender individuals.