Let’s be honest—this Pride month has not felt like much of a celebration so far. With nearly all Pride parades and events canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was already going to be a strange Pride. But with a heightened focus on the dangers that Black people—and especially Black trans people—face every day, and a President who is working overtime to deprive LGBTQ people of their basic rights, positive developments have been few and far between. But today, there’s finally some good news.
In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ employees are protected against discrimination based on their sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression. In a 6-3 decision (we’ll get to those three in a minute), the court decided that gender identity and sexual orientation are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex. It’s a major victory for LGBTQ rights, and a much-needed one, especially on the heels of President Trump’s decision to remove nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in health care.
Today’s ruling specifically applies to three different cases, two involving discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the other based on transgender discrimination. In R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. EEOC, the case pertaining to transgender rights, the arguments centered on the idea that Title VII’s mention of “sex” can be interpreted to also include gender identity. This will surely send J.K. Rowling into a spiral of rage tweets, but it’s a massive moment for the transgender community. This is the first trans rights case that has ever come before the Supreme Court, and today’s decision sends an important message that hope is not lost, and we must keep fighting.
As of today’s Supreme Court decision, just 30 out of the 50 states have legislation that prohibits LGBTQ employment discrimination, and nine of those 30 only apply to jobs in the public sector. Just think about that. Before today, you could be fired for being gay, or bi, or trans in over HALF of the states in our country. It seems wild that something like this is even controversial in 2020, but legal experts were actually surprised by today’s ruling.
With Trump’s two appointments on the bench, the Supreme Court has become more conservative in the last few years, and the Trump administration has openly opposed these protections for the LGBTQ community. Therefore, many were surprised that conservative Justices Roberts and Gorsuch aligned with the more liberal Justices, and even more surprised that Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in the case. In the decision, Gorsuch wrote that there is “no reason to ignore the law’s demands,” and that “all persons are entitled to [the law’s] benefit.”
Unsurprisingly, the three dissenting votes came from conservative justices Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh (America’s least favorite overgrown frat bro). Needless to say, these three are officially on my sh*t list. Luckily, their conservative colleagues did the right thing this time, but it’s distressing that human rights issues like this are such close decisions.
While there’s so much wrong with the world right now, this Supreme Court decision is truly worth celebrating. While it’s ridiculous that it’s taken this long, these protections are an incredible milestone for LGBTQ equality in the United States. Pride month might not be what it usually is this year, but this is much more important than putting on glitter and chugging vodka sodas.
For more LGBTQ stories, check out our Queerantine History series:
Images: GreteMiller / Shutterstock.com; Betches / YouTube