On October 8th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear three cases about LGBTQ employment discrimination that will determine if federal law protects LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court will consider how Title VII’s ban on workplace sex discrimination protects LGBTQ people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The outcome of these cases will determine whether workers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender will continue to be protected under our nation’s federal civil rights laws.
Fighting for equality at home
Here in Oregon, we know this fight for equality, having battled the most anti-LGBTQ ballot measures to eventually lead the way in LGBTQ equality.
“We fought for—and won!—the Oregon Equality Act in 2007, ensuring that LGBTQ people are protected and affirmed whether at home or at work,” said Nancy Haque, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon. “Because no one should be denied housing or employment because of who they are or who they love.”
Mikki Gillette, Major Gifts Officer for Basic Rights Oregon, understands the impact of these protections all too well. While working as a substitute teacher in Vancouver in 2011, she was the focus of vitriol from local parents who wanted her fired simply because she is transgender. The school district stood by her, citing Washington’s legal protections for all workers, regardless of gender identity.
“I was protected in my job because of the state’s LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws. These are protections that not every state has, but everyone deserves,” said Mikki. “That’s why, while the Supreme Court decisions are incredibly important, we also need to call on the Senate to pass a federal Equality Act to ensure protections for all, no matter what zip code they’re in.”
Fighting back nationwide
Millions of LGBTQ people report experiencing discrimination in their everyday lives, including on the job, and rely on these protections. Oregon state has had protections for LGBTQ people in place for 12 years, and that helps make sure that our LGBTQ neighbors are protected from harm. But when we travel to visit family and friends, we are also vulnerable to discrimination.
That’s why it’s so critical that the Supreme Court affirm protections for LGBTQ people across the nation.
As we wait for their decision to come in June 2020, there’s still plenty to be done for LGBTQ equality.
- Let your Senators know that passing the federal Equality Act is vital for ensuring LGBTQ people are treated with fairness and respect no matter where they live.
- Donate to Basic Rights Oregon as we continue to move Oregon forward and ensure protections for everyone.
Learn more about the Supreme Court cases
- R.G. & G.R. HARRIS FUNERAL HOMES v. EEOC and AIMEE STEPHENS (TRANSGENDER STATUS)
Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is, the business owner fired her, saying it would be “unacceptable” for her to appear and behave as a woman. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March 2018 that when the funeral home fired her for being transgender, it violated Title VII — the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. Aimee was the same capable employee before and after her transition, but she was fired because she took steps to be the woman she is. That’s sex discrimination.
- ALTITUDE EXPRESS INC. v. ZARDA (SEXUAL ORIENTATION)
Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired from his job for being gay. A federal trial court rejected his discrimination claim, saying that the Civil Rights Act does not protect him from losing his job for being a gay man. Tragically, in October 2014, Zarda died unexpectedly, but the case continues on behalf of his family. In February 2018, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination based on sex that is prohibited under Title VII. The court recognized that when a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person is treated differently because of discomfort or disapproval that they are attracted to people of the same sex, that’s discrimination based on sex.
- BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY (SEXUAL ORIENTATION)
Gerald Lynn Bostock was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator when his employer learned he is gay. In May 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider an outdated 1979 decision wrongly excluding sexual orientation discrimination from coverage under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination, and denied his appeal.