On April 22, 2019, the Supreme Court announced it would consider three cases that ask whether or not to roll back protections for LGBTQ people under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in these cases on October 8, 2019, and we are now waiting for the Court to announce its decision.
The decision will have a profound impact on LGBTQ+ people. A loss in these cases could give companies a license to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in employment and may provide impetus to opponents of LGBTQ+ equality to seek even greater opportunities to discriminate.
About the Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering three related cases that will have a profound impact on the LGBTQ+ community. These cases are about the existing protections LGBTQ+ people have against employment discrimination and, specifically, how Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination in the workplace protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is the federal law that deals with protections from discrimination in employment. On its face the law prohibits discrimination in recruiting, hiring, promoting, and other employment contexts, on the basis of certain specified characteristics: race, color, national origin, sex and religion. These protections are applicable to most, but not all, employers.
- Altitude Express v. Zarda: Don Zarda was fired after revealing his sexual orientation to a customer at the skydiving business where he worked. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of Zarda, concluding that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of workplace sex discrimination that is prohibited under Title VII.
- Bostock v. Clayton County, GA: Gerald Bostock was fired from his job as a child welfare services coordinator for Clayton County, Georgia, when his employer learned that he is gay. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of Bostock’s Title VII case, which relied on old caselaw.
- R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens: Aimee Stephens was a funeral director in Michigan. When she informed her employer that she is transgender and would come to work as a woman, consistent with her gender identity, the funeral home said that would be unacceptable and fired her. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the funeral home’s actions in firing her constituted sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.
Who supports LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections?
Nondiscrimination protections have broad public support: over 70% of Americans support them. More than 2,000 experts and organizations filed 50 amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs on the side of LGBTQ+ employees and nondiscrimination protections, reflecting the diverse majority of the country.
Family Equality’s Amicus Brief
Family Equality, along with The Trevor Project and PFLAG National, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court that tells the stories of LGBTQ+ individuals who suffered discrimination because of others’ views of how they should look, act, or think based on their sex. Read more about the Family Equality brief here.
What’s at Stake?
These cases will determine whether LGBTQ+ workers will continue to be protected under our nation’s federal civil rights laws to be able to work without fear of humiliation, harassment, or discrimination. A ruling allowing employers to fire someone simply for being LGBTQ+ would be a significant rollback of our rights.
No matter how the Court rules, the Equality Act is essential to ensure comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in all areas of life, including housing, public accommodations, and government programs.
Stay in the Know!
While this is a difficult environment for everyone as we grapple with the global pandemic, this decision will be a pivotal moment for our community. Family Equality’s policy team is watching these cases closely, and we will alert our list when the opinion is released and update this page to explain and respond to the ruling. Enter your information below to receive email alerts.
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Also, you’re invited to gather with us (virtually) as a community to support each other and learn about what’s next on the day the opinion is released. Visit this webpage to sign up for National Virtual Events on Decision Day. Family Equality is a proud partner of these events.
Decision Day planned events include:
- Virtual National Rally at 7pm ET: join for a livestream rally to come together with LGBTQ+ leaders from across the country to lift each other up during these difficult times and thank those who led the fight for these cases
- Virtual Town Hall at 8pm ET: join a panel of experts analyzing the opinion and its effects and discussing ways for the community to respond, including by continuing to advocate for the federal Equality Act no matter what the ruling is. There will be time for Q&A, and the session will be recorded.