USA: Federal district court rules trans discrimination violates Illinois attorney ethics
Transgender Attorney Sheryl Ring Monday won a lawsuit in US district court with a stipulation that Illinois attorney ethics rules do not allow discrimination based on gender identity. The new stipulation says that an Illinois ethics rule banning sex discrimination also apply when a lawyer discriminates against a transgender individual on the basis of sex in violation of a law or ordinance which uses the word sex encompassing gender identity or expression.
The lawsuit began when Ring filed an October 2021 complaint against the Administrator of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Ring petitioned for the state of Illinois to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. To support her case, Ring cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which held that that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination also extends to gay and transgender workers.
In her complaint, Ring stated that she experienced daily discrimination from both attorneys and judges as a result of her gender identity. Her allegations included a court clerk’s refusal to use her legal name and female pronouns; a retired judge who asked if she had surgically transitioned during a mediation hearing; an arbitration panel who informed her that she could not represent clients because she is transgender and incompetent to stand as an attorney; lawyers and judges deliberately misgendering her and referring to her as her pre-transition name (“deadname”) in court even after being corrected; being called slurs from the bench and even having lawyers share pre-transition pictures of her with the court.
When asked about her feelings about the win, Ring stated: “I am absolutely overjoyed at this result, because for the first time trans litigants and attorneys in Illinois can walk into court knowing that misgendering, deadnaming and genital inspections are prohibited, and they have recourse for violations.”
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