We Won: Supreme Court Protects LGBTQ+ People In Workplace
A sweet victory among bitter times.
(Daniel James / Unsplash)
For weeks we have lost and we have grieved and we have mourned. We’ve organized, and we’ve demonstrated. We’ve challenged, and we’ve reflected. Then, for a moment on the morning of Monday, June 15, we won.
In Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled with a 6-3 vote that the 1964 Civil Rights Act now formally and federally extends its protection to LGBTQ+ individuals. The law has long been used to ban discrimination in the workplace based on sex, race, religion, and national origin.
This means that for the first time in United States history, it is now illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression.
You may be wondering if you read that wrong — we are in 2020 after all, aren’t we?
Yes, we are ... but no, you didn’t.
Prior to this Supreme Court ruling, it was legal in 27 out of the 50 United States for a worker to be fired, denied promotions, refused training or even just blatantly harassed in the workplace on the sole premise of being LGBTQ+.
Wisconsin had employment protection for diverse sexual orientations but not for gender identities. So, with Wisconsin considered, that totals 28 states which have until now been able to legally discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community.
(Here’s the part that may come as a shocker to you all: Florida was among the 27 with no protections offered whatsoever!)
That means that 52% of the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S., who occupy those 28 states formerly holding workplace discrimination as permissible under law, find unprecedented relief. That means job security. That means access to income and housing and groceries and livelihood. That means freedom — even if it’s not yet complete, even if the work is not yet done.
However refreshing it must feel to celebrate, we cannot let this long-awaited baby step toward an equitable society distract us from the reality of our situation. We cannot celebrate this freedom without honoring the LGBTQ+ lives that have tragically come to an end before having a chance to relish in this freedom alongside us.
Exactly a week preceding the ruling, two Black transgender women were murdered within 24 hours of each other. Twenty-seven-year-old Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and 25-year-old Riah Milton were two of at least 14 transgender or gender non-conforming lives taken in 2020 alone.
In an interview with PhillyVoice, Fells’ friend Kendall Stephens called her a social butterfly who was close with her mother. Stephens said Fells “lived her truth so loud that you could hear her a mile away.”
As the LGBTQ+ community comes together to rejoice in progress made, let this moment act as a reminder that the fight is far from over. On the contrary, it’s still just beginning.
This ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is unprecedented not only because it’s the first major case for transgender rights, but also because it acts as a resounding slap in the face for the Trump administration.
On Friday, June 12, on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Trump administration finalized a rule that would remove Obama-era protections for LGBTQ+ people in terms of healthcare.
Essentially, the administration’s goal with this rule (among others) is to exclude discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity from what constitutes as “sex discrimination.”
But just three days later, Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was Trump’s very first appointee to the Supreme Court, wrote the majority opinion that ensured trans lives would not be further jeopardized in the workplace. Both Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts voted for the majority opinion despite being well-known conservatives, likely much to the disappointment of the Trump administration.
Prior to this groundbreaking moment in LGBTQ+ history, the 2015 US Transgender Survey found that 30% of transgender respondents “reported being fired, denied a promotion, or not hired for a job because of their gender identity or expression.” This is a win for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, but especially so for the trans lives that face current and frequent discrimination and danger.
That’s not to say you must hold back the joy you’re feeling. Rather, feel more than enough of it for those who can’t today.
Feel it for Fells. For Milton. For McDade and Polanco and Pop. Let it overcome you, and let it pour out of you in the form of systemic changes that trans lives can experience while they’re still with us.
Times may be changing, but we have to keep that change going before the fruits of our labor turn to the spoils of our complacency. Keep reminding yourself of what truly matters this Pride month.
Natalia Galicza is a Staff Writer for Rowdy Magazine. She is passionate about promoting equity and awareness. You can usually find her editing, writing poetry, or playing around with editorial makeup. Contact her at email@example.com to learn more.