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US Supreme Court will finally decide on LGBTI employment discrimination

US Supreme Court will finally decide on LGBTI employment discrimination

Waving a rainbow flag in front of the Supreme Court building

The Supreme Court of the United States announced on Monday (22 April) 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.

These cases will finally settle the matter. This has been a source of contention between federal courts and the Trump-Pence administration.

The three cases

Lawyers are presenting three cases relating to LGBTI employment discrimination to the Supreme Court.

In the first case, a funeral home fired its director, Aimee Stephens, when she came out as transgender. She said she would be coming to work as a woman and they responded that would be ‘unacceptable’.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Stephens’ favor in March 2018, saying her firing violated Title VII.

Donald Zarda is the defendant in the second case. Altitude Express, Inc. fired Zarda from his skydiving job due to his sexual orientation. A federal court initially rejected his discrimination claim before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII’s language about sex discrimination does apply to sexual orientation in February 2018.

Finally, an employer fired Gerald Lynn Bostock from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator when they learned he was gay. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied his appeal in May 2018.

Courts vs Trump

Federal courts have not come to an agreement about whether or not Title VII applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. Some have ruled in favor of LGBTI protections, while others have not.

The Trump-Pence Administration stepping into the debate further complicates the situation.

On numerous occasions, the Justice Department under Trump has declared that Title VII does not apply to either sexual orientation or gender identity.

What happens now?

There has been no clear answer on employment protections for LGBTI people, muddied by varying court decision and political leaders’ opinions.

Lawyers will argue the cases before the seven Supreme Court Justices in the fall. A decision will likely be handed down in June 2020 — during the thick of the presidential race.

The Supreme Court currently has a conservative majority. Trump nominated two conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, within his first term. There is no way of knowing how they will rule until the decision is handed down, however.

The Supreme Court is not the only path for LGBTI federal protections.

Democrats recently re-introduced the Equality Act to Congress, which would mandate federal protections for LGBTI Americans across the nation.

See also

Colorado trans man gets $60k and apology letter over workplace discrimination

LGBTI employees at Department of Justice are quitting due to ‘low morale’

Sally Field and her gay son come out to support the Equality Act