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Authors

Taylor Payne

Abstract

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) was implemented in 1990 and is hailed as a pivotal piece of legislation that protects the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. Driven by the prejudice of certain influential legislators, transgender individuals were purposefully excluded from the ADA’s protection. This exclusion – commonly referred to as the “GID Exclusion” – ensured that “transsexualism” and “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments” were not considered a “disability” under the ADA. The GID Exclusion effectively produced a categorical bar for transgender plaintiffs seeking legal recourse under the ADA despite the fact that many transgender individuals experience clinically significant stress known as Gender Dysphoria, a recognized and serious medical condition that can substantially limit major life activities. For almost two decades following the passage of the ADA, the GID Exclusion was left virtually unchallenged. Moreover, transgender plaintiffs who tried to invoke the ADA’s protections were unsuccessful – that is until 2014, when Kate Lynn Blatt (“Blatt”) brought suit in federal court. Blatt, a transgender woman with Gender Dysphoria, alleged she was either covered under the ADA or the ADA’s exclusions were unconstitutional. Blatt’s suit marks one of the few times the GID Exclusion has been challenged and the only time in which a court has held the ADA does not categorically bar transgender plaintiffs from protection. This Note discusses the groundbreaking ruling of Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail, Inc. and its potential impact on transgender individuals in the public and legal spheres. Part II of this Note provides the pertinent facts and holding from Blatt. Part III discusses the history of the ADA and the impetus for the GID Exclusion. Part III then turns to the current legal landscape for transgender individuals at the national and state level. Part IV details the instant decision and explores the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s legal reasoning and holding. Part V addresses arguments for and against the holding of the instant decision, detailing positions argued by the United States of America and amici curiae in the case.

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