A gay man who says he was fired because of his sexuality is taking his case to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) this year.
Gerald Bostock’s case is one of three LGBTI cases that SCOTUS will hear during its 2019/20 term.
In April, the Supreme Court announced they will review three cases dealing with LGBTI discrimination in the workplace.
There has been an ongoing debate about whether or not Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, granting federal protections against discrimination for certain identities, applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Many hope these cases will settle the matter.
One of the cases is of trans woman Aimee Stephens in Michigan. She is suing a funeral home she worked at for six years claiming they fired her after she transitioned.
The other is between Melissa Zarda and skydiving company, Altitude Express. Zarda is suing the company on behalf of her late brother Don. She also says he was fired after he came out as gay.
This third is Bostock v. Clayton County, whose arguments will be heard in the Supreme Court alongside the Zarda case.
In anticipation of the oral arguments this fall, GSN will be posting guides for all three cases.
Bostock v. Clayton County
In 2016, Bostock sued the Clayton County after he believed he was fired because of his sexuality.
Bostock lost his job in 2013 as a child welfare services coordinator at the Clayton County Juvenile Court. He claimed his employer fired him very soon after learning he played on a team in the Hotlanta Softball League – an openly LGBTI league.
But Clayton County officials claimed they fired Bostock for allegedly misspending county money. They accused him of using a county debit card to pay for meals. Bostock has said they fired him for being gay.
He tried suing the county but both US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia dismissed his case, as did the11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
So in May last year, Bostock and his lawyers filed a petition in the US Supreme Court. It decided it would hear oral arguments in the case sometime between October 2019 and April 2020.
Civil Rights and the Supreme Court
Equality law organization Lambda Legal was named a friend-of-the-court for both the Bostock and Stephens cases. It filed amicus briefs on their behalf.
‘After many years of courts grappling with these questions, the Supreme Court has decided to step in and resolve whether discrimination against someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act,’ said Greg Nevins, Senior Counsel and Workplace Fairness Program Strategist for Lambda Legal.
‘Multiple courts have understood that discrimination against someone for being transgender or being in a same-sex relationship is a form of discrimination because of sex, plain and simple. There is no reason for the Supreme Court to carve LGBTQ people out of a law that by its own terms protects us from discrimination.’
What makes Bostock’s case one of the most intriguing of the three is because it will ask the Supreme Court to consider whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends workplace protections to LGBTI people. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against people based on their sex. Many lawyers have argued successfully around the country that this also protects LGBT people from employment discrimination.
‘Title VII obviously requires equal treatment of men and women, so it was wrong to treat Donald Zarda [or Gerald Bostock] differently because of his attraction to men, when a Donna Zarda or Geraldine Bostock would not have endured discrimination for liking men,’ Nevins said.
‘These arguments couldn’t be more straight-forward, and we are hopeful that the Court will confirm that they are correct.’