In a decision with potentially far-reaching implications for discrimination law in Missouri, the state's high court on Tuesday agreed to hear two LGBT cases.
One involves a transgender teenager who sued the Blue Springs R-IV School District in 2015 for denying him access to the men's bathroom.
The other involves a gay man, Harold Lampley, who claimed he was harassed by his employer because he didn't conform to stereotypical masculine behavior.
Lampley's complaint was thrown out in July by the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, which ruled that it wasn't authorized to decide claims based on sexual orientation.
In October, the Missouri Court of Appeals sent the case back to the commission, finding that Lampley's claims were based on his sex, not his sexual orientation, and ruling for the first time that sex stereotyping constitutes sex discrimination.
Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, says the Missouri Supreme Court's decision to hear both cases marks a significant moment for the state.
"These are the first cases where the court’s going to consider what sex discrimination means when the discrimination is based on people not meeting stereotypes about their gender," Rothert says.
He says the cases highlight a defect in Missouri law. While Missouri law bars discrimination against individuals based on their sex, it's not clear whether the law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone for not conforming with stereotypes associated with their sex.
"Gay, lesbian and transgender Missourians face discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment without real recourse," Rothert says. "It's time for the legislature to do something about that."