Will LGBTQ Members be Treated Equally in the Workplace?

Four years ago, under the Obama administration, gay marriage was finally legalized in the United States. Though this was a victorious and pivotal moment for members of the LGBTQ community, the struggle for their equality nonetheless persists in the workplace. 

On Oct. 8, the Supreme Court heard from three separate cases involving LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. In 2013, Gerald Bostock was fired from his position as a child welfare services coordinator in Clayton County, Georgia, not long after he joined a gay softball league, thereby revealing his sexual orientation. Further, in 2010, Donald Zarda was fired from his job as a skydiving instructor in New York after jokingly assuring a female customer that she had nothing to fear from being strapped to him in the air because he was gay. Aimee Stephens was fired from her job at a family-run funeral home in Detroit after she returned from a vacation as a woman.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 strictly prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on sex, gender, race, color, national origin, and religion. The legal arguments, however, hinge on whether "sex" applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Courtesy: LA Times

California, along with twenty-one other states, forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, more than half of the LGBTQ population in America live in states where their rights are not protected under the law. 

“What’s bizarre about this is that in the state of Georgia, I can legally get married to my partner on Saturday or Sunday and get fired for it on Monday because I don’t have those federal protections,” Bostock told NBC News.

Chief Justice Samuel Alito, part of the conservative wing of the court, pondered about “what some people will say about this Court if we rule in [their] favor.” He was alluding to the fact that it is not the Supreme Court’s place to determine the validity of claims presented before them, but rather Congress’s responsibility. Unfortunately, Congress has had a history of inaction concerning LGBTQ rights.

In May of this year, the Democratic-controlled House made efforts to pass the Equality Act as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act. This modification of the law specified that “discrimination based on sex” would effectively extend to sexual orientation, gender identity, and even pregnancy. The Republican-controlled Senate, however, has halted the progression of this measure. 

Courtesy: Vox 

After hearing from the three plaintiffs last week, Chief Justice Sonia Sotomayor addressed this stagnation. As CNN reports, Sotomayor fired back and stated, "At what point does a court continue to permit invidious discrimination? ... At what point does a court say, Congress spoke about this, the original Congress who wrote this statute told us what they meant. They used clear words. And regardless of what others may have thought over time, it's very clear that what's happening fits those words."

While political leaders continue to stagnate such opportunities to progressive change, LGBTQ members across the nation continue to live with the uncertainty of potentially losing their jobs because of who they are and who they love.

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