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Transgender woman suing Hobby Lobby for refusing her access to the women's restroom

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A transgender woman in Illinois is suing crafts chain store Hobby Lobby for refusing her access to the women's restroom, according to Newsweek. Meggan Sommerville, a 16-year employee of the company's store in Aurora, filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) in April 2011 alleging discrimination in employment and in public accommodation. Sommerville's complaint was thrown out in 2012 for lack of evidence, but IDHR later overturned the dismissal, and her suit against Hobby Lobby is still pending.

“I'm just looking to be treated equally with every other female in the company—not just in the store, but in the company," said Sommerville, who began her transition on the job in 2009 and legally changed her name a year later without being fired. "If they recognize me as female for certain things, why can't they recognize me as female for everything?”

Newsweek noted that Hobby Lobby declined to comment on the pending litigation. Several advocates have recently written about the potential effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on protections for LGBT employees, but in this case, the company has not cited religious reasons for barring Sommerville's access to the women's restroom.

“Hobby Lobby’s taking the fairly absurd condition that in order for Meggan to be able to use the female facilities, she has to undergo reconstructive surgery,” said Jacob Meister, Sommerville’s attorney. “There’s absolutely no support in the law for this, but they are being adamant in trying to create this unlawful rule."

GLAAD is working with Meggan Sommerville and the Civil Rights Agenda, and will continue to help bring media attention to the employment discrimination faced by so many transgender people. 

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