The LGBT+ discrimination decision could be handed down from the US Supreme Court. Indeed this could happen any Monday morning between now and June.
It’s 2020 and time for the US to catch up with other G7 countries on the human rights of LGBT+ people. In 2016, 67 countries in the World enacted legal protections against discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation while 20 protected against discrimination based on gender identity/expression. The United States is still not part of this group of nations and is hanging onto abhorrent employment discrimination in states nationwide.
This is why we are looking forward to the Supreme Court ruling in the days/weeks/months ahead in three key cases concerning LGBT+ nondiscrimination protections. Every Monday morning at 10 a.m. – we will be turning our eyes towards 1 First Street, NE in DC. Well, to be fair we are actually opening our SCOTUS blog app which you should download too.
Once the decision comes out, Out Leadership will reach out to its 79 member companies and other partners to communicate their reaction on social media and in press releases. We believe it will be important to reiterate the consequences of the decision as most people in the US still do not understand the lack of legal protections for LGBT+ people in the US. Our goal is also to keep the private sector engaged and informed in an issue it has a huge stake in.
Contrary to common belief, the decision might not be as cut-and-dried as “protected” or “not protected”, it could also be that sexual orientation is protected or gender identity is but not both. At this point, we fear such a “mixed” or “nuanced” decision which would be only a partial win.
We are not waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on human rights though. The world already did when it passed the UDHR in 1948 – what we want is for the law in the US to catch-up. Instead, Out Leadership is continuing to advocate alongside our member companies for the Equality Act (see below) to be passed in the US Senate, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s obstructionist approach.
In our opinion, the Equality Act is just a bipartisan “no brainer”. For example, the UK passed the Equality Act 10 years ago in 2010. Comparably in the US, the human rights of LGBT+ people are used as pawns in an ugly political game led by President Trump and Senator McConnell to appeal to conservative homophobic constituencies.
A little background
In July 2019, Out Leadership, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Lambda Legal, Out & Equal, and Freedom for All Americans announced that 206 major corporations signed an Amicus (“friend of the court”) Brief.
In the brief, we argued four very simple and now widely accepted points:
- LGBT+ non-discrimination and inclusion are good for business and the economy.
- Top American businesses are comfortable with courts continuing to hold that federal law provides protections to LGBT+ employees.
- Non-discrimination protections for LGBT+ employees help improve operations for businesses.
- There are significant costs for employers and employees if sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination were not forbidden by law.
The brief was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in a trio of cases (the now famous and colorful R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens, Bostock v. Clayton County, consolidated with Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda) that will determine whether LGBT+ people are protected from discrimination under existing federal civil rights laws. Laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in contexts ranging from the employment to housing to health care and education.
We should not forget the egregious content of these cases.
- In Altitude Express v. Zarda, a skydiving instructor was fired after a customer complained that the instructor disclosed that he was gay.
- In R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens, a trans woman was fired from her long-time job at a funeral home after she announced her gender transition.
- And in Bostock v. Clayton County, a man was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator after his employer learned he was gay.
These are real cases in which real people with real families lost their jobs just because of who they are.
Whatever the outcome is, Out Leadership and our members will continue to push for the passage of the Equality Act.
The Equality Act is a bill passed by the United States House of Representatives on May 17, 2019, that would amend the Civil Rights Act to “prohibit discrimination on the basis of the sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition of an individual, as well as because of sex-based stereotypes.”
The United States Senate received the bill for consideration on May 20, 2019. Since then, it has been sitting on the desk of Mitch McConnell: who is too manipulative to present it on the Senate floor vote and too cowardly to risk having it voted down.
Last May, he publicly vowed to strike down the Equality Act in order to secure the fundamentalist religious vote. It appears unlikely that President Trump – also desperate for votes – would sign the bill should it pass the upper chamber claiming that “this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.”
Yet as I pointed out in a post on February 7th in OutNEWS about the proliferation of “license to discriminate on religious ground” bills, or “parental and conscience rights” whatever that means – cannot trump human rights.
Americans should not forget relatively recent history, where racial segregation was also justified on religious grounds. In fact bigotry always is. The phenomenon of justifying apartheid by religion was hardly invented by Trump or McConnell and has a long and depressing history that has to end.
The United Nations Born Free and Equal 2019 edition has 5 key recommendations for countries to align their laws with the human rights framework on LGBT issues. Number 4 is “Prohibit and address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics by enacting relevant comprehensive legislation and policies […]. Ensure nondiscriminatory access to basic services, education, employment, housing, and health care.” It is an unequivocal endorsement of our fight on LGBT+ legal protections in employment over the petty political games of McConnell and Trump.
The Supreme Court will rule soon about whether or not LGBT+ people have the right to live free of discrimination in the US. On that day, Out Leadership member companies may have a reason to celebrate, potentially cautiously if it is a “mixed decision”.
But when the ruling is released, we will be ready to take the fight to the U. S. Senate no matter the outcome of the decision. Regardless of the ruling, we know that the only way to have true equality for all Americans and to join the 67 countries in the world that have enacted such overdue legislation, is to pass the Equality Act.
And tune-in with us every Monday at 10 a.m. to join with us in reminding the US Supreme Court why its decision matters for all businesses.
*Join our Teleconference for Businesses on March 19th, where Out Leadership, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Lambda Legal, Out & Equal, and Freedom for All Americans discuss our joint efforts to develop messaging ahead of the imminent decision by the Supreme Court on LGBT discrimination in the workplace.