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OFF BEAT: Court backs TV network in transgendered man's quick change

April 18, 2014 - 3:28pm


Despite the incredible amount of foresight frequently displayed by the framers of our constitution, it is highly unlikely that even they would have predicted that the First Amendment would someday be applied to the wardrobe of a transgendered individual.

Yet that, however, is what happened on Thursday, when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge held that the First Amendment protected BET Network's wardrobe decisions.

Last August, B. Scott, whose birth name was Brandon Sessoms, filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against BET Networks and its parent company, New York-based Viacom Inc., for alleged discrimination in connection with his appearance as a style correspondent at the pre-show of the BET Awards, according to news sources.

Mr. Scott contended he was “literally yanked backstage and told that he 'wasn't acceptable,'” according to reports of the complaint. He was “told to mute the makeup, pull back his hair and was forced to remove his clothing and take off his heels, thereby completely changing his gender identity and expression,” according to the complaint. “They forced him to change in solely men's clothing, different from the androgynous style he's used to, which he was uncomfortable with.”

Viacom asked the judge to strike the complaint as an impingement of its First Amendment rights, and Los Angeles Superior Court judge Yvette Palazuelos granted the motion.

Referring to an earlier decision, Judge Palazuelos wrote, “If casting decisions are protected speech, then logic dictates that decisions about wardrobe, style, and whether to appear with or without a co-host, also fall within the protection of the First Amendment as these decisions impact 'the end product marketing to the public,'” the judge wrote.

Mr. Scott was understandably unhappy with the ruling and said in a statement with his attorney he planned to appeal. “It disheartens me that the message sent today wasn't a message of acceptance but rather it's acceptable to discriminate against transgender individuals on the basis of their gender identity and expression — and that such discriminatory acts are protected under the First Amendment,” he said.

 



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