On Monday, June 15, the Supreme Court decided in a landmark case that those who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) may no longer face discrimination in the workplace.
This new directive is interesting to me because, well, we already passed a civil rights act in 1964. Thomas Reuters Practical Law shares:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
A federal law prohibiting employment discrimination against employees and applicants based on:
- Sex (including gender and pregnancy).
- National origin.Title VII specifically prohibits discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment, including hiring, compensation, employment benefits, advancement, employment training, assignments, and termination of employment. Harassment and retaliation are also prohibited under Title VII.
What is “Sex”?
Interestingly, this 1964 law does not resolve all the issues. Women are still waiting for the Equal Rights Amendment to pass. They continue to be paid much less than their male counterparts. Black Americans must continue to protest racial inequality. Often white applicants are offered jobs over equally qualified people of color.
But when talking about LGBTQ+ rights, the caveat to the 1964 Title VII law circles around the definition of sex. Apparently there is confusion among many about what “sex” implies: Biological sex? Gender? Sexual orientation?
For most of us, the idea that another human would lose their employment because of who they love, the color of their skin, their reproductive anatomy (their sex), or if they identify as male/female/other (their gender) just seems absurd. And yet, here we are, still going to the top of the court system to ensure everyone can feel secure at work.
Discrimination and Court Rulings
The last monumental ruling for gay rights was in 2015: marriage equality. The Supreme Court pronounced that marriage unions between two people, no matter their gender, would be protected under the law. However, as explained on the June 15, 2020 The Daily podcast, these blissful newlyweds could show up for work the next day and get fired. Why? Because their life partner happens to be the same gender.
So, back to the courts we go. This time three exasperated individuals decided to take it to the top once again. Gerald Bostock was fired for joining a gay baseball team. Donald Zarda, who is now deceased, was fired because he told a customer he was gay. Aimee Stephens, also deceased, was fired for being transgender. None were fired because they were ineffective employees. No. They were fired because their bosses didn’t like their sex, gender or sex life. Like it’s any of their business.
Discrimination and Stonewall
Kudos to those three individuals and their contemporaries who steadfastly advocate for their rights. Let us also recognize the LGBTQ+ community that walked before them. The Stonewall Uprising in 1969 was pivotal in drawing attention to the (lack of) gay rights. Despite protests, laws, and amendments, the LGBTQ+ community continue to endure discrimination on a daily basis.
The other fascinating milestone in this month’s ruling is who supported it. Both conservative and liberal SCOTUS justices voted to forbid discrimination in the workplace. Granted, they must hash out religious concerns and other structural issues, but this ruling continues to lead us down the path of equality.
Adults, Teach Your Children Well
Laws are one thing, but we also must have conversations about equality for all, no matter sex, gender, race, color, religion. Without acceptance and kindness of others, progress will be very, very slow. Talk to your kids about equality for all. Discuss the issues that people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community face everyday. Our children are our hope. It starts with honest, open conversations with the adults in their world.
On a side note, after the employment discrimination ruling, our current president stated,“They ruled and we live with their decision. That’s what it’s all about. We live with the Supreme Court’s decision.” Anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? Roe v Wade?