With Landmark Supreme Court Victory LGBTQI Groups Reflect on Future

In an historic 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis sex, also protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Today’s decisions confirm workplace anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across the country. Many may be surprised that 2 conservative Justices joined the majority, including Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch. This sets the stage moving forward with the ideal that progress can happen despite the devaluation of equality in the ongoing attempts by the Trump Administration to maintain oppression of LGBTQI America, through appointments, policy, rhetoric and failed leadership. (Notably, Trump had filed a Brief against this ruling*- see below.)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The issue before the court was whether this ban on sex discrimination also forbids employment discrimination against sexual and gender minorities.

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) hailed today’s landmark Supreme Court ruling that transgender people cannot be fired for who they are, noting that in the ruling:

“the chief justices issued a sweeping decision that affirms federal law protects transgender and non-binary as well as lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, rejecting the federal administration’s attempts to roll back employment protections.

The ruling comes in three cases involving: The late Aimee Stephens who was fired from her job at a Michigan funeral home for being transgender (R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and two people who were fired on the basis of their sexual orientation, a skydiving instructor in New York and a child welfare coordinator in Georgia (Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia)

The opinion was written by Justice Gorsuch and joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Sotomayor, and Justice Kagan. It straightforwardly states:

“no ambiguity exists about how Title VII’s terms apply to the facts before us.” “By discriminating against transgender persons, the employer unavoidably discriminates against persons with one sex identified at birth and another today.” Rejecting the defendants’ main argument that transgender people were not thought to be protected in 1964 when Title VII was written, the opinion concludes, “[b]ut to refuse enforcement just . . . because the parties before us happened to be unpopular at the time of the law’s passage, . . . would tilt the scales of justice in favor of the strong or popular and neglect the promise that all persons are entitled to the benefit of the law’s terms.”

At a time of such loss and uncertainty, this is a historic step forward for transgender people nationwide.

But even though the Supreme Court has ruled transgender people are guaranteed employment protections, TLDEF notes that its work to eliminate structural discrimination and violence remains incomplete – most notably for the Black transgender women in our community. We are committed to ensuring comprehensive non-discrimination protections are enacted by state and federal lawmakers to ensure transgender people across the country have equal access to housing, health care, and public accommodations:

“Today we celebrate this victory, and tomorrow we return to our task of advancing full and lived equality for transgender people. Today’s decision will immediately benefit TLDEF’s clients and our ongoing work in the courts. TLDEF is currently bringing suits in North Carolina and Georgia challenging government employers’ decisions to withhold coverage of transition-related healthcare from employee health plans. TLDEF will immediately file briefs explaining that today’s decision decides the outcome of those cases. TLDEF also expects to bring new suits around the country building on today’s ruling.”

Nevertheless, in 25 states, there remain no explicit statewide laws that protect people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Today’s ruling means federal law now provides similar workplace protections for LGBTQI/ transgender people throughout the rest of the country. However, there are no federal laws that explicitly protect people from discrimination in housing, and public accommodations on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

LAMBDA LEGAL:

This is welcome news at this difficult time, but we have a long way to go in securing the full and undeniable civil rights of LGBTQ people. The harsh reality is many LGBTQ people face harassment and vulnerability in their daily lives, even outside of work. And LGBTQ people of color — particularly Black transgender women — face even higher rates of discrimination and, too often, violence.

We must build on the momentum created by today’s decision to push for the comprehensive protections in the Equality Act passed by the House of Representatives one year ago. “Today’s decisions are an important victory, but alone are not enough to fill the gaping holes that remain in the hodgepodge patchwork of rights and protections that currently exist for LGBTQ people. We now look to Congress to address the critical gaps in our federal civil rights laws by passing the Equality Act,” said Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal.

PALM CENTER director Aaron Belkin made the following statement in response to today’s ruling by the Supreme Court:  

“The Supreme Court today rejected the Trump administration’s plea that American employers be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ workers. But the landmark ruling does not apply to discrimination against transgender Americans by the military, the nation’s largest employer. Today’s ruling makes the military, so often a successful leader in ending discrimination in American life, an outlier amidst a national consensus that arbitrary discrimination is harmful and wrong. With transgender workers protected by federal law in all other sectors, the military’s transgender ban is now even harder to defend.”

The American Psychological Association, APA President Sandra L. Shullman, PhD:

 “This is a victory for all Americans who value equality and fairness. Psychological research has found that LGBT individuals are often stigmatized for not conforming to sex-role stereotypes. Sexual and gender minority individuals already experience higher rates of physical and mental health problems than do heterosexuals.

“When laws are enacted to prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender individuals, research has shown that health outcomes, both mental and physical, improve. Workplaces that have adopted LGBT-supportive policies have also benefited from improved health among those employees, as well as greater job commitment, job satisfaction and productivity.”

APA, along with the American Psychiatric Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the Georgia, Michigan and New York Psychological Associations submitted an amicus brief in support of the employees.

Kasey Suffredini, CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans, the only nationwide, bipartisan campaign to secure federal and statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans, released the following statement in response to the news: 

“This victory is a watershed moment that will immediately improve the lives of millions of LGBTQ Americans. But even with this critical step forward, the work of securing comprehensive protections for LGBTQ people remains far from done. The harsh reality is millions of LGBTQ people face harassment and mistreatment in their daily lives, even outside of work. There are still shocking and critical gaps in our nondiscrimination laws, particularly in housing, public places, federal programs, and more. These gaps are exacerbated by a culture of systemic racism and an ever-present public health crisis that disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, making Black, indigenous, and LGBTQ people of color especially susceptible to harm.

“That’s why, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, Congress must pass federal legislation that ensures all LGBTQ Americans are treated fairly with the strongest possible protections in every area of our lives, and states without nondiscrimination protections must pass state legislation as well. We know, as we watch the nation rise up against racism that perpetuates violence against Black Americans, that it takes more than laws to end systemic oppression. But laws prohibiting discrimination and addressing systemic racism are the least our country can do for its most vulnerable until our culture catches up. Until then, systemic racism  will expose Black, indigenous, and LGBTQ people of color to disproportionate discrimination across their lives and the pursuit of LGBTQ equality will be far from done.”

Recent data shows a majority of Americans across ideologies, age, and religious affiliation in all 50 states support passage of LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.

FYI:
There is new data about how Americans feel about LGBTQ people.This comes just moments after the Supreme Court has delivered a historic victory for LGBTQ people — ruling that the federal law that bars sex discrimination in employment does apply to LGBTQ employees.

Here is a snapshot of the findings of a survey of over 1,000 American adults polled just June 10 – 12th.

  • 80% of Americans believe that gay, lesbian and bisexual people should be equal to heterosexuals
  • 78% of Americans thinking that transgender Americans should be equal to non-trans people
  • This trend was reflected across party lines with majorities of Democrats and Republicans saying LGBTQ people should be equal to cis-gender heterosexuals
  • The agency also discovered a surge of Americans saying they didn’t care about the sexuality or gender expression of their coworkers
  • 81% of Americans said they didn’t care about their coworkers’ sexuality and 80% said they didn’t care about their coworkers’ gender expression

Those are up over 20 percentage points from last year when 60% of the populace said they were non-issues.

  • About a third of Americans (30%) are disappointed that Pride is going to be virtual without parades due to concerns about COVID-19

  • Nearly one in four Americans (23%) said they would participate in a virtual Pride event.

  • A majority of Americans (59%) said that LGBTQIA people were important in their lives this year, with the #1 most influential person being a tie between comedienne Ellen DeGeneres and CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper. Drag Queen RuPaul came in third. Overall, a majority of Americans (51%) said they had a friend from the LGBTQIA community.

*NOTABLY TRUMP HAD FILED A BRIEF AGAINST THIS RULING:

The Trump administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that gay workers are not protected by federal civil rights law. The filing came exactly one week after the administration argued the same for transgender workers. The brief was submitted in combined cases concerning Gerald Bostock, a gay man fired from his job as a child welfare services worker by Clayton County, Georgia, and the late Donald Zarda, a gay man fired from his job as a skydiving instructor by New York company Altitude Express. The Bostock and Zarda cases are two of three cases concerning LGBTQ workers’ rights . The brief, submitted by Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco and other Department of Justice attorneys, argues that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, “does not bar discrimination because of sexual orientation.”

Clearly the Trump administration and cohorts in oppression never had the moral high-ground and now they do not have the dicta as we revel in this victory and more to come… most decidedly with a vote to oust this cruel and divisive man from the White House. #VOTEBLUE

 

MELANIE NATHAN
commissionermnathan@gmail.com
Follow me on Twitter – @MelanieNathan1
Instagram: Commissionermelnathan
My websites: www.AfricanHRC.org
Speaker: www.melnathan.com


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