When all is said and done there could not be a more serious moment in the lives of LGBTQI Americans and their families – and also for the entire LGBTI world. Any form of inequality or diminishing of our community will serve to justify and hence dictate further global marginalization for all LGBTQI communities. If SCOTUS rules against us, the world that continues to criminalize LGBTQI people will be emboldened in its homophobia and transphobia, empowered in its punishment and retribution against us. There is a lot at stake. Melanie Nathan, As ED of African HRC.
In 1986 was fired for being a lesbian! I was called into the office of my boss, a fellow South African lawyer, who had two weeks previously hired me to work in his Los Angeles Immigration office. He told me someone had informed him that I had had a same-sex relationship, and that for that reason he had to ask me to leave. It was like a bomb had gone off on my head. I could not believe what I was hearing. It felt like betrayal. I did not know how I would survive. It turned my world upside down and I decided in that moment never to be dependent on anyone for a job again. Following that path took my career into unchartered waters and it was not easy! Over 30 years have passed since that day and still the thought that Americans are being fired simply for who they love or who they are – is mind boggling! Today the Supreme Court of the United States, with its Trump-heavy conservative SCOTUS bench heard three cases about LGBTQ workplace discrimination that will determine whether federal law will continue to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It could so easily go against equality and fairness and justice for all… so easily… and that is terrifying for me as a lesbian, a mom, a citizen of this country and an activist in the global world that still seeks to decriminalize LGBTQI people..
Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard:
R.G. & G.R. HARRIS FUNERAL HOMES v. EEOC and AIMEE STEPHENS (TRANSGENDER STATUS)
Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is, the business owner fired her, saying it would be “unacceptable” for her to appear and behave as a woman. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March 2018 that when the funeral home fired her for being transgender, it violated Title VII – the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. Firing Aimee —who remained the same capable employee — for publicly identifying and presenting as the woman she is- is sex discrimination.
ALTITUDE EXPRESS INC. v. ZARDA (SEXUAL ORIENTATION)
Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired from his job for being gay. A federal trial court rejected his discrimination claim, saying that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not protect him from losing his job for being a gay man. Tragically, in October 2014, Zarda died unexpectedly, but the case continues on behalf of his family. In February 2018, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination based on sex that is prohibited under Title VII. The court recognized that when a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person is treated differently because of discomfort or disapproval that they are attracted to people of the same sex, that’s discrimination based on sex.
BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY (SEXUAL ORIENTATION)Gerald Lynn Bostock was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator when his employer learned he is gay. In May 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider an outdated 1979 decision wrongly excluding sexual orientation discrimination from coverage under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination, and denied his appeal.
A decision is expected by June 2020.
Destination Tomorrow, a grassroots agency dedicated to the economic empowerment of LGBTQ people in the Bronx, spoke out today on the historic LGBTQ employment discrimination cases before the Supreme Court.
Statement from Destination Tomorrow Executive Director Sean Coleman
“In hearing these cases the Supreme Court holds the lives and livelihoods of LGBTQ people in its hands. The employers in these cases and the Trump Administration are asking the Supreme Court to rule that it is perfectly legal under federal law to fire workers because they are LGBTQ. At Destination Tomorrow we see firsthand how rampant discrimination already adversely impacts the economic advancement of our communities, particularly African American LGBTQ people. Stripping job protections from LGBTQ people would add even more barriers to marginalized communities. No one should ever be fired for being who they are. Everyone should have the same chance to support themselves and their families. We hope the Supreme Court rules on the side of fairness and justice and sustains job protections for LGBTQ people across the nation.”
In this statement by the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) in Support of the DC SCOTUS Rally,
Nakisha Lewis, NBJC advocate, notes:
“Black people have known what it is like to have their humanity called into question since the founding of this nation. It is our pushing against a racist system that yielded the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So, for those of us who live at the intersection of Blackness and queerness or transness to be here defending our right to exist as we are by protecting the Civil Rights Act, is particularly painful and reminds us that bigots will go to great lengths to deny our humanity. But today having inherited a legacy of fighting back, we will not back down until all Black lives, including those that are LGBTQ/SGL, are legally protected.”
David Johns, NBJC executive director:
“The issue of employment protections against discrimination is something that matters deeply to Black people, especially Black LGBTQ/SGL people. Anyone who claims to care about democracy or humanity must be actively engaged in the effort to ensure that all parts of our intersectional identities are valued and protected.
“The ability for bigots to fire people based on actual or perceived sexual identity, gender orientation or expression is dangerous. We cannot allow the Supreme Court, the Trump administration or lawmakers here on Capitol Hill to roll back the advancements made by Title VII, and threaten the strength and ability of our nation. It is not acceptable for any type of pernicious discrimination to be legal. In fact, any type of discrimination that we live with, should be outlawed- especially in Southern states where this type of discrimination is legal.
“For the LGBTQ community, particularly Black LGBTQ folks, there’s more at stake in the outcome of these Supreme Court cases being heard today– more than most of you care to acknowledge.
“While Black people continue to carry the weight, the lingering scars and injustices of slavery, Jim Crow, and post-Civil Rights era discrimination, Black LGBTQ/SGL, trans and gender non-binary individuals have the added burden of race- and gender-based violence and threats of violence in the United States too often goes undiscussed.
“Supreme Court justices, like Kavanaugh, are no doubt emboldened by the Trump administration who also emboldened white nationalism, fueled hatred and fear towards our immigrant brothers and sisters and demonized LGBT advocates in Congress. But our will to protect each other and protect our collective futures is stronger than that.
“We must ensure equal protection of all Black people under the law and that means protecting Title VII that safeguards us against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin and has huge implications for the health and wellness of Black LGBTQ/SGL people, our families, and Americans.”
Lest we forget the World has its eye on America, a nation expected to forge progressive equality-centric ideals. Yet we are jettisoned into dark ages with the Trump attacks on Constitution, Democracy and the progress we have made.
When all is said and done there could not be a more serious moment in the lives of LGBTQI Americans and their families – and also for the entire LGBTI world. Any form of inequality or diminishing of our community will serve to justify and hence dictate further global marginalization for all LGBTQI communities. If SCOTUS rules against us, the world that continues to criminalize LGBTQI people will be emboldened in its homophobia and transphobia, empowered in its punishment and retribution against us. There is a lot at stake.