By Jessica Gable, Communications and Marketing Coordinator
The United States Supreme Court announced this week that it will hear three cases that will decide whether or not the workplace protections granted by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extend to LGBTQ and transgender employees.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids workplace discrimination on the basis of sex. Some courts have viewed this as encompassing gender identity and sexual orientation. But others have not. This was the situation in one of the cases being heard by the Supreme Court involving a man who says he was fired from his job as a social worker in Clayton County, Georgia because he is gay. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against him, indicating that protection from discrimination on the basis of “sex” does not include protection from discrimination because of sexual orientation.
Another case accepted by the Court on Monday is that of Aimee Stephens, a transgender funeral home employee who says she was fired after disclosing to her colleagues her intention to transition from man to woman. Ms. Stephens’ former employers argued that the term “sex” does not include gender identity, making it legal to discriminate against a person who identifies with a gender other than the one they were born with. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The Court ruled in favor of Ms. Stephens and said the funeral home acted unlawfully. But the funeral home brought its case to the Supreme Court, hoping to narrow the interpretation of protection from discrimination on the basis of “sex” to exclude gender identity. This would make it legal for an employer to fire an employee because they do not conform to arbitrary gender expression standards.
It will probably come as no surprise that the greatest obstacle to a favorable ruling for LGBTQ and transgender employees is Trump-appointed justice Brett Kavanaugh. His ruling record on LGBTQ and transgender issues is untested, but the Trump administration has rolled back other protections for those communities in the past (eliminating protections for transgender patients, instituting a ban on openly transgender military service members) so that it has advocates worried.
The stakes are incredibly high here. The Court won’t hear the cases until its next session begins in the fall, but once again we’re reminded of the importance of reaching out to local officials and making our concerns known. The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Court may end up being the deciding factor in whether or not LGBTQ and transgender rights are curtailed and hopes of equal protection under the law indefinitely postponed. To stay on top of the case, visit the Supreme Court’s blog here.
For a comprehensive analysis of Aimee Stephens case, I recommend this piece from CNN Politics.
And you can always check out the website of the Supreme Court and its docket here!
Stay tuned for more analysis from the Neighborhood News Desk!