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The Trans Man Denied A Haircut Over “Religious Freedom” Is Exploring A Lawsuit

by Rob Smith March 14, 2016

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Transgender Army reservist Kendall Oliver was denied a haircut for being trans, and it looks like he’ll be taking his case to court.

A few days back, we told you about how Oliver tried to get a haircut at a Rancho Cucamonga barbershop (oh so cleverly named “The Barbershop”), who turned him away and misgendered him while doing so. Owner Richard Hernandez said:

“It’s a shame for a man to have long hair, but if a woman has long hair, it’s her glory and it speaks to being given to her as her covering, and I don’t want to be one who is taking away from her glory.”

Instead of letting Hernandez transport us all to the 1950s, Oliver is fighting back.

After seeing Oliver’s story on the news, senior litigation counsel Gregory Lipper from Americans United for Separation of Church and State contacted him and plans to represent him in a lawsuit. Speaking to The Guardian, Lipper said:

“Most courts have rejected attempts to use religion as an excuse to discriminate. The question isn’t just could [Oliver] have found somewhere else to get a haircut … We know from the civil rights movement that there’s a deep stigma to being told, ‘We don’t serve your kind here.’”

Oliver may have a case. California has a civil rights act that prohibits this kind of discrimination, and Lipper sees it as a clear violation:

“Whether I don’t want to cut the hair of women or of people who identify as men, but I deem to be too feminine, however you spin it, this is a clear refusal to cut hair based on sex or gender or perhaps both.”

Americans United has represented gay and lesbian clients in some recent lawsuits against business owners who’ve hopped on the “religious freedom” bandwagon and used their religious beliefs to deny services to LGBT people. In his case, Oliver definitely welcomes the help. He told The Guardian:

“If I have the opportunity to keep things advancing … I would like to try.”

As incidents like this are swiftly met with legal action, the next few years should be interesting for this arena of the LGBT rights battle.

Rob Smith
Rob Smith


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