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In a groundbreaking decision last Tuesday, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court held that the state Law Against Discrimination protects transsexuals against gender and disability discrimination. The judges, in Enriquez v. West Jersey Health Systems, A-2017-999, found that the statute’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex applies “whether a person has qualities society considers masculine or feminine.” J.C. Salyer, staff attorney for the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says the decision is one of the first appellate rulings anywhere “that affords this type of protection.” The decision allows pediatrician Carla Enriquez, formerly Carlos, to proceed with a LAD suit against her former employer, who discharged her as medical director for the West Jersey Center for Behavior, Learning and Attention in Voorhees, N.J., 10 months after she began her transformation. Judge Steven Lefelt, joined by Judges Michael King and Francine Axelrad, found it incomprehensible that the Legislature would ban discrimination against homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual men and women but “condone discrimination against men or women who seek to change their anatomical sex because they suffer from a gender identity disorder.” The court also held that gender dysphoria, or transsexualism, is a handicap under the LAD that, unlike the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, does not expressly exclude transsexualism and “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.” The ADA, unlike the LAD, requires that the impairment be one that substantially limits a major life activity. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of a claim for discrimination based on sexual orientation, finding that Enriquez was neither homosexual nor bisexual nor was perceived as such. Enriquez’s lawyer, Arthur Jarrett, a partner with Philadelphia’s James & Jarrett, applauds the court’s “real world view” that bias “spills over” and protection should not be limited to “discrete, exclusive areas.” West Jersey Health Systems, now known as Virtua Health and based in Marlton, N.J., represented by William Honan, a partner with Atlantic City’s Fox, Rothschild, O’Brien & Frankel, declines to comment.

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