U.S. Supreme Court Considers Three Cases That Could Take America Backward

Did you know that there are three huge cases on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket for this fall about whether LGBT people are worthy of equal opportunity or whether they may be treated as legally inferior citizens?

Did you know that there are three significant cases on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket for this fall about whether LGBT people are worthy of equal opportunity or whether they may be treated as legally inferior citizens?

The Court will hear oral arguments in October about whether LGBT people will continue to have protections under federal nondiscrimination law, or whether it would be legal under federal law for employers to fire LGBT people just for who they are or whom they love. These cases will impact the ability of LGBT people to provide for themselves and their families.

Today MAP released a new brief, “Can LGBT People Be Legally Fired? U.S. Supreme Court Considers Three Cases That Could Take America Backward” highlighting what’s at stake with these cases.

http://www.lgbtmap.org/scotus-2019-titlevii

Together, the cases have the potential to take America backward. That’s because if the Court rules that LGBT people are not protected by existing federal workplace protections, anti-LGBT opponents will rapidly use the same legal reasoning to work to attempt to overturn critical federal protections in housing, healthcare, credit, education and more. In short, LGBT people could soon find themselves living in a nation where federal law says it is legal for them to be denied a job, fired, discriminated against at school, denied a loan, rejected by a doctor, and evicted from an apartment, simply because they are LGBT.

Now is the time to reiterate the importance of nondiscrimination for LGBT people and all people. That’s why MAP is releasing a new brief today that describes the cases, how the Court could rule, and what the implications of the Court’s rulings could mean for LGBT people not just at work but in all areas of life.


Two New Rulings Affirm LGBT Discrimination is Prohibited Under Federal Law

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is sex discrimination.

So says two federal courts in the span of one week. On February 28, 2018, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the case of Zarda v. Altitude Express. The Court found that Title VII, a federal law, protects people from being discriminated against in the workplace because of their sexual orientation. More specifically, the Court found that employment discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

And then on March 7, 2018, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the case of a funeral home director who was fired after telling her employer that she was transitioning from male to female. The case, Stephens v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, affirmed previous rulings from the 6th Circuit that discrimination based on gender identity was prohibited discrimination under Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination. The funeral home also claimed that they were exempt from the law because of their religious beliefs, and the Court rejected that claim.

MAP updated its Title VII explainer to reflect these rulings—in which the the 2nd Circuit Court became the second federal court of appeals to make such a ruling in a sexual orientation case.

So, what does Title VII cover, and why is this important to LGBT people? What does sex discrimination have to do with discrimination against LGBT people?

Title VII is a federal civil rights law that protects people from being discriminated against in employment because of their sex, race, religion, and other characteristics. Federal law does not explicitly list “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” as protected categories, but—as shown in our updated infographic—many federal courts and agencies argue that discrimination on the basis of “sex” covers LGBT people anyway. Here’s why.

When someone is discriminated against for being LGBT, that discrimination is a form of sex discrimination because “but for” their sex, they would not face such discrimination. Take the example of a lesbian being fired after being seen holding hands with her wife. If she were a man, she would not be fired. “But for” her being a woman, she would not have experienced that discrimination. The same is true for workers are who are seen as qualified until they begin a gender transition and then are discriminated against for being transgender. “But for” their gender, they would not have faced such discrimination.

Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination based on sex is not only about one’s sex, but also about sex stereotypes and whether one adheres to those stereotypes. The Supreme Court has held that illegal discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes and whether a person adheres to those stereotypes. For example, discrimination based on sexual orientation rests on the stereotype that men are or should be attracted only to women, and that women are or should be attracted only to men. Similarly, gender identity discrimination is sex discrimination because it is rooted in views that transgender or gender nonconforming people don’t fit the idea of how a man or woman “should” be. Discriminating against an employee who fails to conform to stereotypes in the workplace, including hair style and style of dress, is discrimination based on sex because the discrimination is rooted in stereotypes about how men and women should appear, act, and dress.

And protections under Title VII are vital for LGBT people because they face frequent discrimination. For example, one-quarter of LGBT people reportedpersonally experienced discrimination at work in the past year alone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 27% of transgender people said they had been fired, not hired, or denied a promotion in the past year.

The positive decision in Mr. Zarda’s case in the 2nd Circuit Court and in Aimee Stephen’s case in the 6th Circuit are extremely important for LGBT people around the country. In many states, as well as under federal law, there are no explicit protections for LGBT people in the workplace.

These decisions strengthen the growing number of judicial decisions recognizing that protections against sex discrimination include protections for LGBT people.

Donate here to support MAP as we continue to track and support ongoing court cases and conduct research to speed equality for LGBT people!