Hobby Lobby Loses Over 10 Year Fight To Block Trans Woman From Bathroom

On August 13, 2021, Illinois Second District Appellate Court declared that Meggan Sommerville, a transwoman who was in a legal battle with her former employer — Hobby Lobby — over bathroom access, is no doubt a female and "just like the women who are permitted to use the women's bathroom."

In 2011, Hobby Lobby denied Sommerville access to the women's bathroom. That same year, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. One of the symptoms includes a weakened bladder. She needed to visit the bathroom "four or five times a day," and was required by Hobby Lobby to use the unisex bathroom, which customers also use.

All the unisex bathrooms provided by Hobby Lobby are in the front of the store. Sommerville, an employee of Hobby Lobby for more than 20 years, was stationed at the store's back. Sometimes the bathrooms are occupied, so "I wait, but I don't want to feel like a creeper and be waiting outside the bathroom," Sommerville explained. She had to go back to her location and hope that a bathroom will be available when she comes back. The woman's bathroom, for employees, was readily available.

Sommerville was disciplined for using the woman's bathroom. In 2013, she filed complaints with the Illinois Human Rights Commission for Hobby Lobby's unlawful sanction. In 2019, the commission ruled that Hobby Lobby's policy is unlawful and has violated state laws. Hobby Lobby appealed the commission's ruling.

In an interview with Forbes, Sommerville expressed her appreciation for the Illinois' Appellate Court sticking to the law. She also added that it "was as much of a victory as anything else," adding that "even conservative judges couldn't go any other way with it."

The decision was a landmark case made by Illinois's appellate court. Attorney Jacob Meister describes the ruling as "broad, sweeping when you read through it." Meister added that this landmark ruling would "have national implications and start the process of courts around the country addressing the issue of bathroom access."

Illinois' Second District ruled that Hobby Lobby, a company owned by right-wing Christian David Green, violated state laws by being biased in employment and public accommodations. The court also upheld the $220 thousand fine for emotional distress and attorney's fees.

Forbes' Dawn Ennis speculated that Hobby Lobby could use the "Christianity card." Ennis referred to multiple instances where Hobby Lobby deliberately used the owner's religious beliefs to influence how they interact with customers. One incident where they declined selling Jewish-related products. The company's mission statement also includes "operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles."

Hobby Lobby has not released any public comment nor announced any plans to appeal the recent decision, as of the writing of this article.

The court's ruling was supported unanimously by the three ciswomen judges, all conservatives in their 60's and older.

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