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Michigan woman at center of transgender rights case dies

Stephens died Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court could make a decision about whether federal civil rights law protects transgender people.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2019, file photo, Aimee Stephens talks during in an interview in Ferndale, Mich. Stephens, who is at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court case about the rights of transgender people is under hospice care, struggling with kidney disease, while awaiting a decision. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Aimee Stephens, a Detroit-area transgender woman who was fired by a funeral home after she said she wanted to be recognized as female, has died.

The 59-year-old died Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court could make a decision about whether federal civil rights law protects transgender people. Stephens worked as an embalmer and funeral home director at Harris funeral home in Garden City, Michigan. 

RELATED: Seemingly divided Supreme Court weighs LGBT people's rights

She was fired in 2013 when she told her boss that she wanted to be known as Aimee, not Anthony, and would report to work wearing a conservative skirt suit or dress. 

RELATED: Supreme Court to decide if LGBT people should get workplace discrimination protection

The ACLU of Michigan said Stephens died at her Metro Detroit home with her wife, Donna Stephens, at her side.

Credit: Allison Shelley/ ACLU of Michigan

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your kindness, generosity, and keeping my best friend and soulmate in your thoughts and prayers. Aimee is an inspiration," Donna Stephens wrote in a statement. "She has given so many hope for the future of equality for LGBTQ people in our country, and she has rewritten history. The outpouring of love and support is our strength and inspiration now.” 

Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project and a member of Stephens' legal team, said she did not set out to be a hero or a trailblazer.

"But she is one, and our country owes her a debt of gratitude for her commitment to justice for all people and her dedication to our transgender community," Strangio said. 

Credit: Allison Shelley/ ACLU of Michigan

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