Planet Fitness is facing down a pair of lawsuits over its trans-affirming locker room policy, one on behalf of Kim Davis’ lawyers.
Liberty Counsel, which represented the Kentucky clerk after she was jailed for denying marriage licenses to gay couples, sent a letter earlier this month challenging the national gym chain’s “No Judgment Policy.” Their client, “Mrs. H.,” claims Planet Fitness Leesburg deactivated her membership after she complained about the presence of a transgender woman in the locker room.
In the complaint, Liberty Counsel claims the trans individual — who is misgendered throughout the account — “exposed his naked body” to women in the changing area. The petition alleges there was an incident in which the transgender woman “[pretended] to apply makeup” for over an hour.
The anti-LGBTQ law firm thusly concludes that Planet Fitness’ inclusive guidelines amount to consumer fraud.
“Planet Fitness’s policy of allowing men into women’s facilities is not represented in its membership contracts; nor next to its restrooms/lockers; nor are we aware of a disclaimer anywhere within the franchise locations, nor in any literature made readily available to its members,” its complaint claims.
“This policy is contrary to common decency and expectations of privacy,” Liberty Counsel adds. “It does not respect the privacy rights of either men or women.”
In addition to reinstating the plaintiff’s membership, Liberty Counsel has demanded Planet Fitness either rescind the policy or post notices in locker rooms and membership contracts advertising it to customers: “Planet Fitness permits men to use women’s lockers and restrooms, and women to use men’s lockers and restrooms. There is no expectation of sex-based privacy within Planet Fitness facilities.”
Liberty Counsel urges resolution of the case by the end of July — or it threatens to pursue legal action.
While Liberty Counsel is a far-right law firm known for filing frivolous lawsuits to push its anti-LGBTQ agenda, the hate group’s case has an easier path to the courtroom following a Thursday decision by Michigan’s Second District Court of Appeals. In an unpublished opinion, judges claim a similar case from 2015 may likewise constitute a violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA).
Yvette Cormier’s membership was revoked three years ago after she warned other women working out at a Midland County gym there was a “man” in the locker room. The customer, who was 48 at the time of the incident, says she was not made aware of the policy before signing up.
In addition to alleging a violation of privacy, Cormier claims she experienced “embarrassment, humiliation, severe emotional distress, and damage to her reputation” as a result of the policy, as ThinkProgress reported.
Midland County Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Beale threw out the lawsuit in 2016, claiming she was not harmed by the policy. The Second District Court came to the same conclusion last year, but in April, the Michigan Supreme Court requested appeals judges give the case another look.
In overturning its earlier ruling, the appeals court notably decline to use the term transgender.
Judges Colleen A. O’Brien, Deborah A. Servitto, and Cynthia Diane Stephens claim that Cormier “strongly preferred a locker room and a restroom in which individuals who are assigned biologically male are not present” in their seven-page decision. The panel of justices further uses phrases like “men who self-identify as women,” “male individual,” and “assigned men.”
Based on those assertions, they say Cormier has standing to pursue allegations of consumer fraud.
“[A] reasonable inference arises from plaintiff’s allegations that defendants’ failure to inform her of the unwritten self-identification policy concerning locker rooms and restrooms affected her decision to join the gym,” the appeals bench claims.
As the case heads back to the Midland County Circuit Court for reconsideration, the plaintiff’s lawyers believe they will ultimately triumph.
“We’re pleased with the decision,” Lansing-based attorney David Kallman claims in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. “The appeals court opinion was pretty clear that we not only have a valid claim, but that we will also prevail upon it.”
Cormier is requesting $25,000 in damages and urges Planet Fitness to drop the policy. However, the company has continued to stand for trans inclusion.
“Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members,” claims spokeswoman McCall Gosselin in a statement. “Our gender identity nondiscrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity.”
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