What is all this about?
On October 8, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for three cases: Altitude Express v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, GA, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens. These cases concern existing protections LGBTQ+ people have in employment and how Title VII’s ban on workplace sex discrimination protects them 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. The Court will issues its decision in spring 2020.
What's at stake here?
A ruling from the Court suggesting anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination is lawful would be a huge step backward that would shock the 70% of Americans who support LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections. LGBTQ+ people must be ensured the strongest protections as soon as possible. But no matter how the Supreme Court rules, win or lose, Congress must pass federal legislation like the Equality Act to ensure comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in all areas of life.
What do the experts say?
In July, more than 2,000+ experts and organizations from various backgrounds filed approximately 50 amicus briefs on the side of LGBTQ+ employees and LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections, reflecting the broad majority of Americans who support these protections.
What does the Trump administration say?
The Trump administration is wrongfully urging the U.S. Supreme Court to make it legal for employers to fire someone simply for being LGBTQ+. The Supreme Court has the opportunity to affirm that all LGBTQ+ people should be able to work hard, make a living, and support themselves and their loved ones without fear of humiliation, harassment, or discrimination at work.
What are the three cases?
Altitude Express v. Zarda
This case concerns employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. After revealing his sexual orientation to a customer at the skydiving business where he worked on Long Island, NY, Don Zarda was fired. Don sued the company but a federal trial court rejected his discrimination claim. Tragically, in October 2014, Zarda died unexpectedly, but the case continued 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 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 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. In April, 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Find out more here.
Bostock v. Clayton County, GA
This case also concerns employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Gerald Lynn Bostock was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator in Georgia 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. Find out more here.
R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens
This case concerns employment discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is, her employer 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 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—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. In April, 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Find out more here.