Jason Bronis/AP
Ga. city council member Michelle Bruce

Georgia Court Rules in Favor of Transgender Politician

October 07, 2008 11:00 AM
by Rachel Balik
The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that a transgender political candidate did not deceive voters or skew election results by presenting herself as female.

Transgender Politician Wins Legal Battle

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in favor of transgender politician Michelle Bruce in a lawsuit brought by two of her opponents for a Riverdale city council seat, who alleged that by presenting herself as female, Bruce was defrauding voters. This is the first known case of a politician being sued for lying to the public about being transgender. Bruce, who was an incumbent councilmember at the time of the election, failed to keep her seat and blames the lawsuit for the loss.

Although Bruce says she was always open about her transgender status, it is unclear whether the public was aware of it. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the alleged irregularities in this case were not enough to call the results of the election into question.

Reasonable Doubt in Elections

In the five-page, unanimous majority decision, the court looked at past cases to determine what grounds for reasonable doubt in an election would be. Alliance Alert, which makes the decision available for download in PDF form, quotes the court as stating that, “It is not sufficient to show irregularities which simply erode confidence in the outcome of the election. Elections cannot be overturned on the basis of mere speculation, [cit.], or an appearance of impropriety in the election procedures.”

But the court also looked at the number of votes that had been cast. Looking at precedent from past cases, the justices found that the election was not close enough to warrant another election or recount.

Related Topics: Transgenders in the workforce

Researchers from the University of Chicago and New York University found that changing genders does affect success in the work force, but this may be more due to general sexism than bias against transgender people. According to Time magazine, the researchers discovered that men who become women earned less money than women who became men.

In fact, they even found that MTF (male-to-female) transgenders tended to wait longer to make the transition than FTM transgenders, hoping to get further along in their careers before making a switch.

But bias against transgender people is also a factor. In Aug. 2008, army veteran David Schroer sued the Library of Congress because it rescinded a job offer after learning that he was planning to transition to female. The Library claimed there were other considerations, but Schroer’s lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union states that there is evidence proving discrimination.

Meanwhile, the public is becoming more aware of transgender people through mainstream media outlets. Transgender contestants have appeared on both “America’s Next Top Model” and the show “I Want to Work for Diddy.” On “I Want to Work for Diddy,” a recently eliminated contestant named Laverne Cox forced some of the other characters to get over their prejudices. On “America’s Next Top Model,” Isis Tsunami encountered some hostility from fellow contestants who didn’t consider her qualified to compete because she wasn’t born a woman. But ultimately, reality TV shows have been known for introducing the public to controversial topics, and they may help to make viewing audiences more comfortable with transgenders.

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