Two employees at a Houston area daycare say they are planning a federal lawsuit, claiming their rights were violated when they were fired for refusing to accept the transgender child of a gay couple.
The plight of Madeline Kirksey and Akesha Bogany Wyatt – fired from the Children's Lighthouse Learning Centers in Katy on Nov. 3 – has been embraced by anti-gay activists who just a week ago helped repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. On Tuesday, the two joined attorneys Andy Taylor and Briscoe Cain to announce the filing of a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that their firings violated their rights. The filing is a precursor to a federal lawsuit, Taylor said.
"Transgenderism is a major and controversial issue for anyone, even adults," Taylor said at a press conference. (Watch below) "A little 6-year-old is not yet ready to make those types of choices. At that age, they are still trying to decide what kind of ice cream and what kind of breakfast cereal they enjoy. Their opinions on things change not only on a daily basis but an hourly basis. And so to empower and indeed to inflict upon a little 6-year-old girl the heavy decision of their sexual identity is nothing short of child abuse."
Taylor (top image) is an anti-gay activist who fought HERO in court, lost, and then won in a Texas Supreme Court decision that prompted the Nov. 3 public thrashing of HERO at the polls. Cain (second image) lost a race for the Texas House in 2014 in a crowded GOP primary. He gained the endorsement of Steven Hotze, a Houston doctor and ardent anti-gay activist.
Kirksey told Fox 26, which first reported the firings, that the child's parents cut the child's hair short and informed the school that their child was a transgender boy with little advance notice. When Kirksey, a manager, pushed school administrators to inform parents of all the students at the center, she and Wyatt were fired, she said.
Taylor said Tuesday that the firings violated the Constitutional rights of the women and hinted that the EEOC complaint would allege the firings were illegal based on religious, gender and age discrimination.
"Madeline Kirksey and Akesha Wyatt stood up not only based on their own faith, their religious convictions, but they stood up for this little girl and they said not so fast," Taylor said.
Kirksey and Wyatt were fired on Nov. 3, the same day HERO was defeated. The ordinance protected 15 classes of people – including LGBTs – from discrimination. Opponents, including Taylor, boiled down their opposition to one misleading, transphobic slogan: "No men in women's restrooms."
Taylor pounced on the issue on Tuesday, weaving the same scare tactics HERO opponents used into the daycare case.
"Can you only imagine the reaction of a couple of dozen 6-year-olds when they learn that Sally all of the sudden is Johnny? They may think this is a cruel game of Opposite Day where whatever they feel like they can say they are the opposite gender of who they really are. Are we going to have little girls running into boys' restrooms and little boys running into girls' restrooms?" Taylor said
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage in June, anti-gay activists are retaliating by pursuing "religious freedom" legislation and attacking transgender issues. It worked with HERO and with the daycare firings, Taylor and other activists see a test case to widen their assault.
"This isn't a problem that is just limited to Katy, Texas. This is a problem that can happen to every parent of a child in a school setting whether it's public or private in every state of our fine nation. And so it's time to take a stand and to push back and to say, you know what, we're not going to allow little girls to be humiliated and attacked in a school setting simply because their gay parents declare, suddenly, that they are a little boy," Taylor said.
Cain framed the issue as part of a larger struggle against LGBT issues.
"We would be blindfolding ourselves if we thought this was an isolated incident. But rather this was the first where someone has boldly come forward," he said. "There is an agenda going on right now in the country and that agenda has no concern with the health or welfare of children or the moral consciences and the religious beliefs of others. It is concerned with one thing and that is to change, fundamentally, the fabric of our culture," Cain said. (Watch below)
The two former employees said they were taking a stand for "what is right."
"I want everyone to know that I took a stance, first off, because of my beliefs. I trust God. And secondly, I stood up for the protection of all the children, not jus the one. I felt it was my obligation after 26 years of doing this that I had to stand up for this child and to protect her at all costs, and if they took my job, I was fine with that," Kirksey said. (third image)
"I just want to stand up for my rights also and what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong," Wyatt said. (fourth image)
Cain also invoked HERO's defeat during the press conference as a sign that the daycare should have informed parents of what was taking place.
"With the recent defeat of the HERO ordinance, we could very positively say they would have wanted to have known what was going on and the Children's Lighthouse didn't want to do that," he said.
"This is not about being mean to potentially transgender children. You know we have all heard about the high suicide rates with LGBT kids or children struggling with gender issues. This is actually about protecting those children and standing up for them, defending them from being ridiculed and anything happening with that from taking place," Cain added.
Children's Lighthouse Learning Centers has 12 locations in Houston, and 28 locations across Texas. It also operates in California, Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, Illinois and New Jersey.
The EEOC filing and threat of a federal lawsuit came three days after transgender activists rallied in Montrose. Via the Houston Chronicle:
A small crowd rallied Saturday on a Montrose street corner to try to combat the negative stereotypes of transgender people that have accompanied the city's sweeping defeat of Houston's equal rights ordinance.
In a city where few folks know transgender people, everyone knows about them on the heels of Proposition 1, an ordinance that would have granted protections to several groups of people, but that opponents feared would allow men to use women's restrooms.
"We are here to say 'We are not going to rape you in the bathroom,' " saidOlivia Maynard, 41, a transgender woman with tidy makeup, flowing hair and a loose blouse.
[video via KTRK]