MEXICO CITY (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A transgender woman at the center of a major LGBT+ rights battle has died, her lawyers said on Tuesday, just as a ruling is anticipated in her workplace discrimination case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Aimee Stephens, 59, died at her home in Detroit after suffering kidney disease, according to her family and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the legal advocacy group representing her.
Her case before the nation’s highest court involves whether or not a Detroit funeral home violated federal law by firing Stephens after she revealed plans to transition to female from male.
The court is considering whether gay and trans workers are covered under the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.
The administration of President Donald Trump has argued that sexual orientation or gender identity are not covered by the law, and the ruling is expected to have implications for workplace discrimination protections for transgender workers.
“Aimee did not set out to be a hero and a trailblazer, but she is one, and our country owes her a debt of gratitude for her commitment to justice,” said Chase Strangio, one of the ACLU attorneys.
“When Aimee decided to fight back after she was fired for being transgender, she just wanted it to be acknowledged that what happened to her was wrong,” he said in a statement.
Stephens had been suffering from kidney disease, according to an online fundraising page set up by her wife Donna Stephens to help cover funeral costs.
“The outpouring of love and support is our strength and inspiration now,” Donna Stephens said in a statement.
Rights advocates lamented that Stephens did not live to see the outcome of her case, with a ruling expected by the end of June.
“It is heartbreaking that she will not get to witness the coming of that promised land for transgender people in this country, but her life will not be in vain,” said Kevin Jennings, chief executive of the LGBT+ advocacy group Lambda Legal.
Reporting by Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org