The Supreme Court heard a few landmark cases for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community Oct. 8. Two of the cases dealt with alleged discrimination against gay employees. The third involved a transgender employee.
The first two cases involve the late Donald Zarda, an employee of a sky-diving company, and Gerald Bostock, a child welfare services coordinator, who were both terminated from their jobs, allegedly after being identified as gay. Zarda made a reference to his sexual orientation to a client. Bostock joined a gay recreational softball league.
Aimee Stephens, formally known as Anthony, said she was fired from her job at a funeral home after coming out as transgender. The formal reasoning for her termination was cited as dress code violations since she insisted on dressing as a woman.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as gender, race, color, national origin and religion. The big question before the Supreme Court is whether the term “sex” refers to sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to a BBC article titled “US top court divided as it ponders LGBT rights,” the Supreme Court justices were divided on whether Title VII protects those gay, lesbian and transgender employees. Justices debated whether the term “sex” applies to sexual orientation.
An Associated Press article titled “Divided Supreme Court weighs LGBT people’s rights” noted the workers believe the law plainly covers sexual orientation and gender identity because discrimination against them is based on generalizations about sex that have nothing to do with their ability to do their jobs.
For example, a man can be fired for loving a man, but a woman would not be fired for loving a man. This argument, a simplification of the issue, demonstrates sexual orientation can lead to discrimination based on sex.
They also argue they were fired for not conforming to sex stereotypes, a form of sex discrimination the Supreme Court recognized 30 years ago, according to the AP article.
“We can’t deny that homosexuals are being fired merely for being who they are,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. “At what point do we say we have to step in?”
Justice Neil Gorsuch noted there are strong arguments favoring the LGBT workers but suggested maybe Congress, not the courts, should change the law.
The Supreme Court is expected to reach a decision by summer 2020.
The BBC article reported most federal appeals courts in the country have interpreted the law to exclude discrimination against LGBT people so far. The article notes courts in New York and Chicago ruled discrimination against LGBT people is a form of sex discrimination.
A CNN article titled “Historic Supreme Court arguments Tuesday in LGBTQ workplace rights dispute” reported 22 states have separate statutes protecting workers based on sexual orientation and 21 have statutes protecting against discrimination based on gender identity, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute.
Also noted from the Williams Institute is approximately 1 million workers identify as transgender and 7.1 million identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Gorsuch questioned whether the court should be concerned of the “massive social upheaval” that would follow ruling in favor of the LGBT community.
After only four years of legally being able to marry, LGBT people are now being fired for being themselves. In my opinion, we need a “massive social upheaval.”
I understand new and different things or concepts can be scary and a challenge to understand. That does not mean we need to fight against our fellow humans.
It’s not a bad thing to be a little uncomfortable every once in a while. That allows for growth of self and the growth of our country. This is an opportunity to reach out and gain a greater understanding of the complicated world we live in.
The LGBT community is not simply going to disappear. They are people with thoughts, feelings, ideas and value. Let’s celebrate each other instead of spreading hate and hurt.