Christopher Vasquez [he/him/his], NCLR Communications Director
415.365.1337 | cvasquez@nclrights.org

Amanda Johnston [she/her/hers], GLAD Director of Public Affairs and Education
617.417.7769 | ajohnston@glad.org

May 15, 2020

Dee Farmer, the First Transgender Plaintiff in a Supreme Court Case, Mourns the Passing of Aimee Stephens

BALTIMORE, MD – Dee Farmer, the first transgender plaintiff to bring a case before the United States Supreme Court, issued the following statement in response to the death of Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman whose employment discrimination case is currently pending before the Supreme Court:

“I am saddened by the passing of Aimee Stephens, my sister in faith and love. Yet my heart is filled with warmth knowing that her voice will continue to be heard through her case in the Supreme Court. May this fact comfort us all.”

Dee Farmer’s litigation began in 1989, when she filed a federal lawsuit to hold prison officials responsible for failing to protect her from being sexually assaulted in a federal prison in Indiana, where she was housed with male inmates. Farmer’s case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which issued a landmark opinion in 1994 holding that prisoners have a right to be protected from sexual violence and that Farmer could seek damages from the officials who had placed her in danger.

The Court’s decision, Farmer v. Brennan, has been cited by thousands of courts. Farmer’s case was also a major catalyst for the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which was enacted by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush into law in 2003.

Farmer, who has spent decades incarcerated, was released on May 10, just a day before Aimee Stephen’s death on May 11, 2020.

“As we await the Supreme Court’s decision in Aimee Stephen’s historic case, it is important to remember the decades of advocacy that made this moment possible,” said Shannon Minter, a transgender man who serves as the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Dee Farmer is a legend in the transgender rights movement. This June will mark the twenty-sixth anniversary of her groundbreaking victory, which marked the first time the Supreme Court had a chance to learn about the struggles faced by transgender people. In the decades since, Dee’s courage has inspired countless other advocates to educate legislatures and courts about the humanity of transgender people and their urgent need for basic legal protections.”

“Few individuals have made as big a difference in the lives of others as Dee Farmer,” said Jennifer Levi, the Director of the Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, and co-counsel with NCLR in several cases challenging Trump’s transgender military ban. “The transgender movement has made tremendous progress since Dee brought her case, and we owe no small part of it to her courage and foresight.”

In 2019, Farmer was featured in an award-winning documentary, Where Justice Ends, which tells the story of her arrest for a non-violent crime, the horrific treatment she endured while incarcerated, and the lawsuit that changed the law of the land.

In the past two years, Farmer has consulted with NCLR to help guide its advocacy on behalf of other transgender prisoners. Currently, NCLR represents Adree Edmo, a transgender woman incarcerated in Idaho. Last year, a federal district court ordered the prison to provide Ms. Edmo with the medically necessary care to treat her gender dysphoria. The Ninth Circuit affirmed that decision, and Idaho has asked the Supreme Court to take the case.

“Our movement owes a huge debt of gratitude to Dee Farmer and the many other Black transgender women who have led the way in fighting for justice and dignity for all people,” said Imani Rupert-Gordon, who joined NCLR as its Executive Director in March. “NCLR is committed to honoring Dee’s legacy and to continuing the work that she and others began, and we will not rest until every transgender person can live safely and freely, and until the horrific violence and mistreatment that too many transgender prisoners still endure is at an end.”

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Since its founding, NCLR has maintained a longstanding commitment to racial and economic justice and the LGBTQ community’s most vulnerable. https://www.nclrights.org

Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. www.glad.org