SCOTUS Rules in Favor of LGBTQ Workplace Protections

It's a historic win for queer equality in America.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ workers in a historic victory for America’s queer community.

As NewNowNext previously reported, the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ workers last October. Three cases with LGBTQ plaintiffs alleging workplace discrimination were presented: Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; Altitude Express v. Zarda; and G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC.

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Protestors outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., in October 2019.

Attorneys representing these plaintiffs argued in support of interpreting Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, a decision that would set a landmark legal precedent. Although state and local laws protect some LGBTQ Americans, the Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that 7.1 million queer people live in states without workplace protections on the books.

After months of waiting, justices finally issued their decision in favor of the plaintiffs this Monday, June 15, affirming that employers cannot lawfully discriminate against workers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII,” the opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, reads in part.

The long-awaited ruling—decided by a 6-3 margin, and coming on the heels of a history-making weekend of nationwide protests for Black trans lives—is being widely hailed as a massive victory for LGBTQ equality. (It also appears to have temporarily broken the Supreme Court’s website. Another win for queer rights? Discuss.)

Today’s historic decision comes with one sad note: Aimee Stephens, a transgender activist and the plaintiff in G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC out of Detroit, Michigan, passed away earlier this year.

As NewNowNext reported in 2019, Stephens was fired shortly after coming out to her boss as transgender. She was offered three month’s severance pay in hopes she wouldn’t sue.

“I think [my boss] thought I would take the money and disappear,” Stephens told NewNowNext last July. “I guess he’s found out by this point that I’m not that type of person. I’m going to fight for what I believe in.”

“Rest in power, Aimee,” Lambda Legal tweeted in Stephens’ memory. “We miss you. This was all possible because of you. We will fight on in your memory, forever.”

Donald Zarda, the gay plaintiff in Altitude Express v. Zarda out of Long Island, New York, also died before the decision was made.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.
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