SCOTUS to Decide if LGBT Workers Are Protected: What’s At Stake?

Today the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear three cases related to protections for LGBT people under federal law. The cases are Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgiaand R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The first two cases relate to whether federal employment law’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, while the last case examines whether the law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. It is surprising for many people to learn that there is currently a confusing patchwork of legal protections for LGBT people.  While many federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) already recognize that discrimination against LGBTQ people involves forms of unlawful sex discrimination, these protections are under attack. Are LGBT Workers Protected from Discrimination? Unravelling the Patchwork of Federal, State, and Local Employment Protections, a resource from MAP, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal helps to make sense of the current situation.

The U.S. Supreme Court taking these cases is important for a few reasons.

First, LGBT people lack explicit protections under federal law and have relied on explicit state-level protections, explicit county or city-level protections, and the ability to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to seek recourse when they are treated unfairly on the job.

Second, a growing number of district and circuit level federal courts have ruled that when someone is fired for being transgender, that firing is inherently based on sex stereotypes about what it means to be a man or a woman, and is thus illegal under existing federal law. Similarly, multiple courts have ruled that if a person is fired for their sexual orientation, that is also discrimination based on sex. For example, if a woman is fired for being married to another woman, that discrimination is based on her sex: if she were a man, being married to a woman would not lead to being fired. Yet, the employers in these cases say that it should be perfectly lawful to fire someone just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
The U.S. Supreme Court likely took these cases because of the “split circuits” on this issue as seen in these maps.

No one should be fired just because of who they are.

Finally, clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court could have an incredible impact on the lives of LGBT people.  One in four LGBT people report experiencing discrimination in the past year. If the Supreme Court were to affirm that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under federal law, that would mean that LGBT people nationwide would be protected by our nation’s civil rights legislation in the areas of employment, housing, education, and more. No longer would LGBT people’s access to basic equal protections depend on their state of residence. If the Court were to rule that federal law does not explicitly apply to sexual orientation and gender identity, it would bolster the case for the Equality Act and other state legislation that would explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

These cases will be argued before the court in fall of 2019.

For more about these cases and what’s a stake, read this brief authored by MAP, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal.

Monthly Equality Maps Update: Big Progress for LGBT People

January 2019 was a big month for LGBT people and advocates around the country, as the new legislative session began and multiple states added new protections for LGBT residents. MAP tracks these and many other LGBT-related laws and policies in our Equality Maps, and we update the maps whenever a policy changes. Bookmark our Equality Maps page to stay up-to-date on the laws and policies that impact LGBT people and their families.

This past month alone, five states added or strengthened their LGBT nondiscrimination laws. The newly-elected governors of Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin all issued executive orders or directives that protected LGBT state employees against discrimination. Additionally, the state of New York passed GENDA, which formally (and finally!) includes gender identity in nondiscrimination law covering employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit. Click here for MAP’s State Nondiscrimination Laws maps.

New York and North Carolina also expanded LGBT protections in other areas. New York added gender identity to its hate crimes law, and further passed a law restricting conversion therapy against minors. Click here to see where your city or state stands on banning conversion therapy for minors. North Carolina updated its process for changing gender markers on driver’s licenses, removing the surgery requirement and significantly improving the ability of trans folks to get accurate IDs. The newly simplified form is available here. What are the ID laws like in your state? Click here to find out!

At the local level, Cudahy, Wisconsin passed an ordinance banning conversion therapy for minors, while Beckley, West Virginia became the 13th town in West Virginia with an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance covering employment, housing, and public accommodations. Merriam, Kansas became the 7th town in Kansas with a similar ordinance. Is your city covered? Find out on our Local Nondiscrimination Ordinances map.

Congratulations and gratitude to the advocates, volunteers, and allies around the country and on the ground who have been working for years to ensure this critical progress is made.

To stay up to date with the latest LGBT laws and policies at the state and local level, consult MAP’s Equality Maps and subscribe to this blog for our monthly updates moving forward.

One Letter Makes a World of Difference

January 1, 2019, marks not only the beginning of a new year, but the beginning of California residents being able to select a nonbinary option on their driver’s licenses. California is one of six states, plus Washington D.C., that now allow residents to select “M,” “F,” or “X” to mark their sex on a driver’s license. Commonly referred to as a “gender marker,” this simple letter can make a world of difference for transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people across the country.

People use their driver’s licenses almost every day and in many areas of daily life, from showing ID when using a credit card at the grocery store, movie theater, or restaurant, to accessing their bank account, getting medical prescriptions, or trying to use public services such as getting a library card or bus pass.  Watch “Movie Theater,” an ad from MAP depicting how transgender people can experience discrimination, harassment and denial of equal treatment in places of public accommodation.

Many transgender people choose to update the gender marker on their identity documents so that it matches their gender identity. may also wish to update their gender marker to something that is neither “M” nor “F.” Most people know from a very young age that they are either male or female. But that is not true for everyone. Gender nonbinary describes a person who doesn’t fit into either male or female gender categories.

However, many states have not yet updated their policy or process that allows people to update the gender marker on their driver’s license. This makes it significantly challenging for transgender and nonbinary people to access identification that matches their gender identity and protects their safety.

MAP tracks these laws in our Identity Documents and Policies Map, which is based on the research conducted and compiled by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), available here.

As the new legislative session starts in many states, it’s important that more states continue to update their driver’s license laws, by both simplifying the process of gender marker changes and expanding the options to include nonbinary individuals.

For more information, please see the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Identity Documents Center.

World AIDS Day 2018

December 1, 2018, is the 30th annual World AIDS Day, an event “for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.”

Unfortunately, this spirit of unity, support, and remembrance is not shared by everyone. In some U.S. states (as well as in other countries), specific laws criminalize HIV-positive people and certain behaviors.  

These laws criminalize the transmission of, or perceived exposure to, HIV and other infectious diseases. A number of criminal laws on sexually transmitted infections explicitly include HIV, whereas others, such as in New York, contain broad definitions of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) or “infectious disease” that can apply to HIV.  

Some of these laws criminalize not just exposure to or transmission or HIV, but also behaviors—such as spitting–that have no risk of HIV transmission. These laws are not based in scientific evidence about actual risk or transmission pathways, but rather based on outdated prejudicial beliefs and harmful stigma about people living with HIV.  

These policies are used to prosecute, fine, or even imprison people living with HIV, many of whom may be LGBT people. This can discourage people from being tested for HIV, leading to adverse public health outcomes. For more information about these laws and their impact on people living with HIV, check out MAP’s report SpotlightHIV Criminalization Laws. 

MAP tracks these laws in our HIV Criminalization Laws map, which relies on the statutory research conducted by the Center for HIV Law and Policy.

Overall, 82% of the U.S. adult population lives in a state with an HIV criminalization law on the books—that’s 38 states! Because the specific content of these laws vary so widely, the prosecution and penalties can also vary widely. And in states with no known prosecution or HIV-specific statutes, there are also no legal frameworks in place to prevent prosecutions under general criminal codes in these states, leaving people vulnerable to being criminalized simply because of their HIV status. 

It’s time to enact commonsense policy recommendations to reduce the harmful consequences of such laws. It’s time to modernize or repeal HIV criminalization laws.

For more information on the history of HIV criminalization, see here. Additionally, if you or someone you know is currently being charged with an HIV-related offense, please contact the Legal Help Desk at Lambda Legal by calling (866) 542-8336 or through this form. 

Everything You Need for Transgender Awareness Week

November 12-19 is Transgender Awareness Week, and MAP has the resources your need to reach out to your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues about why you support equality for transgender people.

Despite rising visibility, unprecedented advocacy, and evolving public opinion, stigma, discrimination and even violence are still major threats, particularly for transgender women, transgender people of color, and low-income transgender people.

And this administration is doubling down on attacks on transgender protections. Last month, The New York Times reported that the Trump Administration is preparing to redefine the term “sex” for the purposes of several federal agencies.

This radical redefinition is out of step with science, medicine and the law—and it is intended to not only to eliminate protections for transgender and intersex people, but to stop recognizing transgender and intersex people all together. This would create even more barriers to accessing the resources, protections and care transgender people need to thrive.

That’s why Transgender Awareness Week is such an important opportunity to advance understanding of transgender people, and MAP has the resources to get you started.

RESOURCES:

Getting to Know Transgender People

Transgender People and Public Accommodations

Transgender Students

Transgender People and Health Care

LGBT Employees Lack Crucial Protections

You may be surprised to learn that LGBT employees lack explicit federal protections against employment discrimination and face higher levels of harassment on the job. In fact, only 20 states plus Washington D.C. have laws that explicitly prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Click here to see a map of which states have updated their laws to ensure that LGBT are treated fairly at work.

The U.S. Supreme Court may soon hear a case featuring Aimee Stephens, who was fired from her job R&G and G&R Harris Funeral Homes, after coming out as transgender. Last March, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Stephens and the EEOC finding that her firing at work was illegal under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex at work. The ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan are representing Aimee Stephens in this case.

Last week, MAP and the National LGBTQ Workers Center released a new brief LGBT People in the Workplace which details the history, demographics and experiences of LGBT people in the workplace. Click here to learn more.

No Place to Call Home: New Ad Shows Real Dangers to LGBT Elders

It’s an emotional time for any family when an aging family member has to move into a nursing home or care facility. For many LGBT older people and their families, the emotions can include fear of being turned away from a facility simply because of who they are. At a time when people need comfort and reassurance, some are denied basic dignity, decency, and respect.

Today, MAP, SAGE, and the Open to All coalition released a new ad, Nursing Home, featuring an older gay man and his family on the first day he moves into an assisted living facility. When the director of the facility learns the man is gay, the man is not allowed to move in. The ad is the latest in a series from MAP that showcase the harms of “religious exemption” laws that allow anti-LGBT discrimination. It’s a hard-hitting reminder of what’s at stake when our nation’s nondiscrimination laws come under fire and when opponents of LGBT equality try to undermine the very foundation of U.S. civil rights laws.

It’s shocking to realize that in a majority of states, LGBT people are not protected against discrimination in housing, employment, or public places like restaurants, hotels, or theaters.

Perhaps even more disturbing is what opponents of LGBT equality are doing to make sure LGBT people have even fewer protections. Right now, we are seeing a coordinated, nationwide effort to file lawsuits and pass laws and policies that would allow individuals, businesses, and even government contractors to use religion as the basis for discriminating against people of color, women, people of minority faiths, and LGBT people, including LGBT elders.

Read more in this opinion piece in The Advocate

While most care providers and businesses will do the right thing when it comes to serving their clients, some will only do so when required by law. In last week’s Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the justices affirmed that states can take steps to protect LGBT people from discrimination, and that religious objections should not be used to deny equal access to goods and services for all Americans. But today, policymakers in Washington and the states are working to pass laws that would increase anti-LGBT discrimination. Among many other negative impacts, these religious exemption laws would allow providers to deny critical health care services and vital social supports to LGBT older adults simply because of who they are.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration established the “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to protect medical providers who deny important care to patients based on religious or moral beliefs. And in the past year alone, lawmakers in 9 states have tried to pass laws allowing anti-LGBT discrimination because of religion.

Religious freedom is a cornerstone of American society, but anti-LGBT forces are using it like a crowbar to break open the door to more discrimination against people because of who they are—not just LGBT people, but anyone that a person, business, or institution finds “objectionable”. In the face of these egregious attempts to strip away nondiscrimination protections and leave our most vulnerable community members at risk, NOW is the time for businesses, care providers, and others to stand up and say their doors are open to everyone and they will not discriminate.

To learn more about how businesses can pledge to be open to all, visit www.OpentoAll.com/business-pledge.

 

Majority of LGBT Americans Can Now Get an Accurate Birth Certificate Without Burdensome Requirements

Thanks to recent updates in Idaho and Florida, 51% of LGBT adults now live in states that issue new birth certificates without requiring sex reassignment surgery or a court order. Previously transgender people in these states had to provide proof of “sexual reassignment surgery,” while those living in Idaho could not get an updated birth certificate.  Now transgender people in Florida can provide a letter from a medical provider asserting they have undergone transition-related care to change their gender marker. In Idaho, transgender people must complete paperwork, and have it notarized—a simple and straightforward process.

The changes in these states are major milestones in the fight for equality for transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Official identity documents—such as drivers’ licenses, birth certificates, and passports—that do not match a transgender person’s gender identity greatly complicate that person’s life. According to the United States Transgender Survey, nearly one-third (32%) of respondents who have shown an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted. A recent ad produced by MAP called “Movie Theater” depicts how transgender people can experience harassment, discrimination and denial of equal treatment in places of public accommodation. In it, a transgender man is the subject of harassment because his gender marker on his drivers’ license does not match his gender identity.

Thirty-one states either require proof of surgery, a court order, or have unclear policies regarding updating the gender markers on birth certificates. For some transgender people, requiring surgery is neither affordable nor desirable. And another three states do not allow for amending the gender marker on the birth certificate.

By eliminating this requirement for updating their birth certificates, these 16 states and the District of Columbia are making it easier for transgender people to go about their daily lives and to exist equally.

Read more about the updated requirements from Equality Florida: http://www.eqfl.org/transactionfl/birth-certificates and Lambda Legal: https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20180406_idaho-makes-history

Click here to visit MAP’s updated equality maps page to see where your state stands on identity document laws and policies, including requirements for updating gender markers: http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/identity_document_laws