On Tuesday, October 8, the Supreme Court convened for oral arguments in three cases that could seriously affect LGBTQ+ workers throughout the country. The cases are discussed in detail in PFAW’s report Our Rights Are On the Line in the 2019-2020 SCOTUS Term.
The main issue in each of the cases, Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, is whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ employees from being fired for their LGBTQ status because that is illegal discrimination on the basis of sex . The Court must determine whether the definition of “sex” in the text includes sexual orientation and gender identity. One of the cases – in which Aimee Stephens claims her rights were violated when she was fired after coming out as trans to her employer – specifically addresses the issue for trans workers. With Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch on the bench, there is serious concern that the Court’s ruling will take LGBTQ+ rights backwards and allow business owners to fire employees for who they are.
As the oral arguments unfolded, People For the American Way stood with allies and activists outside the Supreme Court to voice the need to protect our LGBTQ+ workers . PFAW believes the law clearly prohibits harassment, retaliation, and dismissal against people simply for being gay, transgender, or non-binary. That is discrimination under the law.
At the rally, Nakisha Lewis, the director of Civil, Human and Women’s Rights at the AFL-CIO, spoke about the intersectional impact of this fight saying, “This is not just an equality fight, my friends. This is a racial justice fight. This is an economic fight. This is the civil rights fight of our time.”
“This is not just an equality fight, my friends. This is a racial justice fight. This is an economic fight. This is the civil rights fight of our time.” –@AFLCIO #RiseUpOct8 #RiseUpOctober8 pic.twitter.com/H7T0oqowG7
— People For the American Way (@peoplefor) October 8, 2019
The crowd of activists included many clerical and faith leaders who expressed their conviction that faith does not tolerate hate. Many lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer activists traveled from all over the country to be present for the arguments. Counter-protesters included a small contingent of anti-gay activists and trans-exclusionary radical feminists chanting harmful slogans at the people there to defend their dignity and humanity.
Clergy and faith leaders have gathered at SCOTUS in support of LGBTQ rights and are singing:
🎶 This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine; this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine; let it shine, let it shine, let it shine 🎶 #RiseUpOct8 pic.twitter.com/sW0Nb2OIGL
— ACLU (@ACLU) October 8, 2019
The strong turnout of supporters of LGBTQ+ rights was testament to the sexual, racial, religious and cultural diversity that defines the country. People For the American Way will continue to work hard to advocate for LGBTQ workers’ rights on the job and in all aspects of American life.