The Supreme Court delivered a big win to the LGBT community, ruling that an employer who fires employees for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the CIVIL Rights Act. Title VII already protected people from employer sex discrimination, and discrimination based on color, race, religion, or national origin. The ruling is likely to have extensive impact on federal civil rights laws barring sex discrimination in education, health care, housing, and financial credit. However, the ruling does not help when it comes to discrimination against LGBT people in public accommodations, where discrimination based on sex is not barred by federal law. The issue of whether sex discrimination is included in Title VII has caused discourse in lower courts over several years, with some supporting LGBT workers and others supporting the employers. This ruling was a victory in the cases of Gerald Bostock, Donald Zarda, and Aimee Stephens.
In the first case, Gerald Bostock was fired after he expressed interest in a gay softball league at work. He was an official for the Clayton County’s juvenile court system since 2003. While working there, he had great performance records until he was fired after promoting a gay softball league at work. Believing that the county used the claim of misspent of funds as an excuse for firing him for being gay, Gerald sought legal recourse for discrimination. Georgia was one of the states without laws protecting LGBT workers from employment discrimination. The Supreme Court’s ruling gave Bostock validation for his fight over the last seven years.
Another case involved for skydiving instructor of Altitude Express, Donald Zarda. He was fired from Altitude Express after telling a customer that he was gay to make her more comfortable with being strapped together. The woman’s boyfriend complained that Zarda has inappropriately touched her, and he was fired. He sued Altitude Express claiming that the customer was homophobic and that he was fired due to his sexual orientation. Although he died in 2014 in a base-jumping accident, his family continued with the case. The newest ruling by the Supreme Court supports Zarda’s claim that he was fired because of his sexual orientation.
The last case the Supreme Court reviewed while making its decision was the case of Aimee Stephens. She worked as a funeral director for nearly six years at R.G & G.R Harris Funeral Homes in Garden City, Michigan until she was fired in 2013. Aimee wrote a letter to her coworkers about her decision to have gender reassignment surgery. Two weeks later, she was fired because she failed to follow the dress code. Later, she sued the company for discriminating against her. Aimee died in May from Kidney disease, but her family decided to continue fighting. They didn’t have to fight for long after her death, as the Supreme Court supported her claims that the company discriminated against her for being transgender.
The recent Supreme Court ruling that an employer firing an employee for being gay or transgendered violates Title VII is a big win for the LGBT community. This ruling will have a major impact on federal civil rights laws. The effect has already been seen in the cases of Gerald Bostock, Donald Zarda, and Aimee Stephens.