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"Administration-Related Changes" Lead To Delay In A Key Transgender Rights Case

The ACLU, meanwhile, seeks to step in to represent the transgender woman at the center of the Michigan case in case the EEOC drops its appeal.

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WASHINGTON — "Administration-related changes" have begun rippling outward one week into the Trump administration, leading to a delay in a transgender rights case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC asked for and received a one-month delay on Thursday in filing its appeal in the case, brought in support of a transgender employee of a Michigan funeral home.

"The EEOC requests the extension because of Administration-related changes at the Commission," EEOC lawyers wrote in a Thursday filing at the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The EEOC had filed a notice in October that it would be appealing a trial court judge's decision against the EEOC, and its initial deadline for filing the appeal was supposed to be Thursday. With the extension, however, its appeal is now due Feb. 27.

In addition, the ACLU filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the woman, Aimee Stephens, writing that it was doing so because, "based on the change of federal administration as well as the federal government’s actions over the past few days, Ms. Stephens is reasonably concerned that the EEOC may no longer adequately represent her interests going forward."

The EEOC has adopted an aggressive, pro-LGBT litigation posture over the past five years — filing a new lawsuit supporting workers who allegedly faced anti-gay treatment at work as recently as Jan. 20. Now, however, the ACLU is concerned the changes at the commission could lead the commission to back off on the appeal. Victoria Lipnic, a Republican member of the commission, was named chair earlier this week, and there is a vacancy on the commission to be nominated by President Trump.

"Ms. Stephens is concerned that they might change their position in the litigation, but we have not been told that they are or that they have," ACLU LGBT & HIV Project director James Esseks told BuzzFeed News.

Outside a vote of the commission itself, which is controlled by a majority of Democratic commissioners, the only person authorized to change the litigation posture of the commission is its general counsel.

Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.

Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.

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