Supreme Court Votes to Protect LGBTQ+ Workers

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By Sarai Henriquez, Editorial Intern

This year, the LGBTQ+ community, had more to celebrate than pride month. The Supreme Court ruled that a landmark civil rights law protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.

“Finally. Today, the law, justice, and fairness are on our side,” said Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal in a statement released on June 15, the day of the ruling. “Our nation’s highest court confirmed what Lambda Legal has argued for years, that discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers is illegal.

In the 6-3 decision, the court ruled that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal law prohibits discrimination on sexual orientation or gender identity. With this ruling, workplace anti-discrimination protects LGBTQ+ people in all states in the U.S.

“The protection we now have on a federal level means an indescribable amount. For years being gay or transgender has been criminalized,” said Morgan Billings, co-executive director for Temecula Valley Pride.

Before the ruling, states like Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennesse, Texas, and West Virginia were allowed to fire people who identify as gay or transgender.

“In several states before this ruling, it was completely acceptable on a legal level to be fired for your sexual orientation or gender identity,” Billings said. “So being a person who is gay and transgender, I would be worried when exploring the idea of living in different states. Always wondering if I would have job security. So this ruling is definitely one step closer to equality on all fronts for LGBTQ+ people.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justices Neil M. Gorsuch, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan voted in favor of the protections. Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Brett M. Kavanaugh voted against.

This decision is a huge victory for the LGBTQ+ community and a major loss for the Donald Trump administration. Since the day President Trump took office, his administration has been a nonstop onslaught against the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We now look to Congress to address the critical gaps in our federal civil rights laws by passing the Equality Act,” added Jennings.

May 14, 2019, Trump announced his opposition to the Equality Act, which would guarantee protections for LGBTQ+  people under the nation’s existing civil rights laws.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill, but the U.S. Senate has yet to take any action on the Equality Act. 

In the workplace alone the Trump administration supported employment discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. On Aug. 23, 2019, the justice department filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court.

On June 12, 2020, Trump’s administration announced that it was eliminating a Barack Obama-era regulation that prohibited discrimination in health care against transgender patients.

On April 12, 2019. Trump and Mike Pence banned transgender people from serving in the military, which is also when the Department of Defense came up with the “deploy or get out” policy, which would remove any military personnel living with HIV from services based on their status.    

“People are just homophobic and transphobic,” said Karama Blackhorn, Queer Center Resource Center cCoordinator at California State Univerity Dominguez Hills. “A lot of people say that trans people and queer people are predators trying to steal their kids, that’s what I’ve grown up hearing and politicians say about me.”

This fight is not the only fight that LGBTQ+ people have to face. According to the Human Rights Campaign, last year advocates tracked at least 27 deaths of transgender people in the U.S.. The majority were black transgender women. This year alone there has been at least 16 more deaths.  

“Every day that queer people are out in public being themselves, they are at risk of being attacked by someone who is filled with blind hate,” Billings said.

For years, Lambda Legal has appeared in courtrooms across the nation arguing that discrimination of sexual orientation or gender identity is, by definition, discrimination on the basis of sex and therefore prohibited by federal law.       

“With this ruling, we have become freer as a country. People are more apt to be themselves. A lot of other countries are not as forgiving when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, ” said Clementina Quevedo, a Marine operations chief.