A haircut should be a basic service available to all people, right? Not according to Richard Hernandez, a Church of God member and owner of The Barbershop in Rancho Cucamonga, who refused service to 24-year-old Army veteran Kendall Oliver last week on the basis of his gender identification.
Oliver, who served six years in Afghanistan and self-identifies as male, had booked his haircut appointment online, only to be refused service at the door. As he told CBS2’s Joy Benedict, “When I got there, I was refused service for being a woman. Honestly, I was very offended.”
Hernandez told KNBC that his faith doesn’t allow him to cut a woman’s hair, “even if they identify themselves as a man.”
Hernadez proceeded to quote the Old Testament, claiming that the reason he could not cut Oliver’s hair was because, “The Bible teaches us that woman’s hair is given to her for her glory and I would not want to take any of her glory from her.” He went on to argue for gender conformity, opining that, “When people go against what God has created, you start getting everything all out of whack.”
Although reportedly embarrassed and humiliated, Oliver took to Facebook to share his experience.
“I don’t think that’s how someone should be discriminated against, whether they identify as male or female or transgender,” said Oliver during an interview. “A person is a person.”
Both federal and California State law make it illegal for privately owned places of business to discriminate people on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation.
Oliver told The Guardian that he plans to take legal action against the barbershop for its discrimination and will potentially be represented by Gregory Lipper, a senior litigation counsel with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who reportedly contacted Oliver after his story aired in local news.
As Lipper explained in an interview, “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.’”
A stigma Oliver hopes to spread awareness of and change as part of the ongoing fight for justice and equality in the LGBT community. “If I have the opportunity to keep things advancing,” said Oliver, “I would like to try.”