Meggan Sommerville, who was born male and began transitioning genders in 2007, has been fighting to use the ladies’ restroom for over 10 years at Sommerville’s place of employment, Hobby Lobby. Sommerville has been a Hobby Lobby employee since 1998. Sommerville filed a complaint in 2013 after being disciplined by the company for using the women’s restroom.
The amount awarded to Sommerville will go toward attorney fees and emotional distress, according to the Illinois Second District Appellate Court. In statements describing the impact of the retailer’s restrictions, Sommerville cited nightmares about restrooms and said Hobby Lobby’s restrictions resulted in Sommerville taking in less fluid on the job, which led to health issues.
Despite Hobby Lobby installing a unisex restroom to remedy the situation, Sommerville said, “Every time you go to the bathroom, sometimes it’s four or five times a day, I have to use the unisex bathroom.” Sommerville said if someone else is using the single restroom, “I wait, but I don’t want to feel like a creeper and be waiting outside the bathroom. All the bathrooms are at the front of the store. So, I walk back to my shop at the back of the store and wait until I have another opportunity, and then go back up and hopefully somebody is not there.” The court said that the women’s restroom should be available for Sommerville’s use regardless of Hobby Lobby’s unisex restroom.
The historic decision will have national implications, Sommerville’s attorney Jacob Meister said. “This decision will have national implications and start the process of courts around the country addressing the issue of bathroom access.”
The court shut down Hobby Lobby’s argument that it was protecting women with the restriction. The company’s argument alluded to men posing as women to sexually assault, secretly photograph, and otherwise victimize females in the ladies’ restroom.
“There is simply no evidence that Sommerville’s use of the women’s bathroom would pose a safety risk to other women,” a Forbes report stated. “The presence of a transgender person in a bathroom poses no greater inherent risk to privacy or safety than that posed by anyone else who uses the bathroom.”
It is unknown at this time whether Hobby Lobby will appeal the decision.
Founded in 1970 by David and Barbara Green, Hobby Lobby has more than 900 stores in 47 states across America. The arts-and-craft giant employs over 43,000 people and posts on its website that it is committed to Biblical principals.
The company’s commitments include: “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.” Hobby Lobby says it shares the “Lord’s blessings” with its employees.
Similar to the Christian-owned fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A, all Hobby Lobby stores are also closed on Sundays to allow employees to spend time worshipping and resting with family.
Hobby Lobby Owners Founded the Museum of the Bible
The Green family purchased a 1923 building near the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2012 which is today known as the Museum of the Bible. The museum is a vision brought to life by the Green family and others. It opened in 2017, showcasing historical biblical artifacts in hope of transforming all who experience it with the power of the Bible.
The success of the Green’s Hobby Lobby stores enables their ministry of sharing the Word of God with others. “God’s given us the ability to be very successful in our business, and I think to some degree it’s providential,” David Green’s son, Steve, said. “We want to share this book with people all over the world. And the more resources we have, the more we’re able to do that.”