Over the past few years, the Supreme Court has heard several high-profile cases related to LGBTQ rights. But so far, the court has refrained from ruling about whether or not sexual orientation and transgender identity are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (which states that employers cannot discriminated based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin). Now, however, three cases heading to the Supreme Court could determine whether Title VII guidelines extend to LGBTQ+ people once and for all.
The New York Times reported today, April 22nd, that SCOTUS has agreed to hear two cases about discrimination against gay and lesbian people—Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. A case about discrimination against a transgender funeral home employee (R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) will also be added to the docket.
In the case of Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the plaintiff, a skydiving instructor named Donald Zarda, could not be fired for being gay. But according to The Times, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit court ruled that the law did not protect a child welfare services coordinator who was fired for his sexuality. The Supreme Court’s ruling on these cases could settle whether or not a person’s sexuality is a protected characteristic under Title VII, which would prevent employees from being fired because of who they love.
Meanwhile, in the case of R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The Times notes that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of Aimee Stephens, the trans funeral home employee who was fired for dressing according to her gender identity. However, this case is slightly more complicated because the Department of Justice wrote that trans people are not protected under Title VII guidelines in a memo to SCOTUS.
Basically, there’s no universal or consistent law on this issue as of right now, which means members of the LGBTQ+ community are at the mercy of their individual states—or even individual judges—when it comes to basic rights.
Unfortunately, SCOTUS currently has a conservative majority, meaning the court’s final ruling could prove dangerous for the LGBTQ+ community. But there is hope outside the court. Some members of Congress recently reintroduced the Equality Act, which would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act.
If you feel strongly about LGBTQ rights, call your elected officials and tell them to support this act.