On Tuesday (October 8), the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments in three cases that will ultimately determine if Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers protection from employment discrimination to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The justices will hear two hour-long arguments. The first, reports The New York Times, is on Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga. and Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, two lawsuits filed by gay men who say they were fired because of their sexual orientation.
The second hearing centers R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a lawsuit filed by Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who alleges that she was fired after announcing that she would embrace her gender identity at work.
Per The New York Times:
The question for the justices is whether the language of the 1964 law, which bars sex discrimination, also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. The employers and the Trump administration argue that the lawmakers who voted for the law did not intend such broad coverage. The workers say that it is impossible to discriminate against gay and transgender people without taking into account their sex.
“Tuesday’s SCOTUS cases are about whether LGBTQ people have the right to employment without discrimination in this country. It’s about who we are and who we love. It’s wrong to deny anyone economic security because they have a marginalized identity—whether that is their race, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their ability, their country of origin or any other status,” Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in an emailed statement.
Trans activist Laverne Cox appeared on television on Monday (October 7) to discuss the importance of these cases:
‘We cannot live in a country that says it is ok to fire you just because of who you are, that is just blatantly wrong & not the America I want to live in.’ — @Lavernecox on @ABCNewsLive @abcnews ahead of #SCOTUS taking up landmark #LGBTQ rights cases tomorrow. @chasestrangio pic.twitter.com/gW9lHjdqSO— Jon Schlosberg (@JonSchlosberg) October 7, 2019
This is the first time SCOTUS will hear arguments on gay rights cases since Justice Anthony M. Kennedy retired last year. He wrote the majority opinions for all of the court’s major decisions protecting LGBTQ+ people, including the one on same-sex marriage. The court now has a conservative majority due to President Donald Trump’s appointments of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
According to Newsweek:
Millions of Americans’ rights are at stake. About 4.5 percent of the adult U.S. population identify as gay or lesbian—about 11.3 million people—according to a recent Gallup poll. Another 1.6 million are transgender, estimates a friend-of-the-court brief submitted by 82 scholars who study that population. Though 22 states have enacted their own laws barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, 28 have not, meaning that about 44 percent of the LGBTQ population relies solely on Title VII for workplace protection.
Shabre West, a peer leader with Advocates For Youth, said in an emailed statement: “The job market is hard enough—the last thing young queer people need is homophobes and transphobes making it even harder with the support of the law. As a young, Black, queer woman, I’m here to tell you this generation will not allow our rights to be rolled back. All employers should do is foster an environment where young LGBTQ/nonbinary employees are valued, protected and empowered.”
Decisions in all three cases are expected in either January or June. In the meantime, advocates and protesters are making their voices heard:
Today is October 8th, the day the #SCOTUS decides if I deserve basic human equal rights or not. Its 2019.— Debbie?️? #IAmEqual ? #EqualityAct (@DebbieDoesTwitt) October 8, 2019
Ojos hacia la #SCOTUS hoy ? Veamos si (en el sistema más liberal y laxo en cuanto a despidos), la Corte hace la argumentación correcta y aplica escrutinio estricto. Felicidades, a mi admirado @chasestrangio https://t.co/FOn33uPNMQ— Jimena Avalos (@Jimavalos) October 8, 2019
ACLU of Michigan (@ACLUofMichigan) October 8, 2019
The street in front of #SCOTUS is blocked off, but faith leaders and advocates are down the block singing We Shall Overcome and demanding a nation that protects LGBTQ workers. Join us. #RiseUpOct8 pic.twitter.com/3iNPkRWFHA— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) October 8, 2019