By Krizelle Solidum
The LGBTQ community gained another victory with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling they are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled in favor of Gerald Bostock (Gerald Lynn Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia) and two other LGBTQ cases (Altitude Express v. Zarda, R.G. & G.R. Funeral Homes v. EEOC).
“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” said Justice Neil Gorsuch in his majority opinion.
Bostock, who worked as a child welfare coordinator for Clayton County, Georgia, was fired from his place of employment after joining a gay recreational softball league.
“I lost my livelihood. I lost my medical insurance and I was recovering from prostate cancer at the time. It was devastating,” Bostock told NPR.
“People should not live in fear of being discriminated against or losing their job because of their LGBTQ status … This is long overdue and is significant progress as we seek to protect and uphold the rights and equality of all Americans,” said U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Aimee Stephens worked for six years with R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan, before she was let go about two weeks after she informed her management that she was transgender and would be coming to work dressed in women’s clothing.
The American Civil Liberties Union assisted Stephens in filing a case with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Her case was reviewed along with Bostock’s case by the Supreme Court.
Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the dissenting opinion, is concerned the ruling is too broad and does not define how it will affect other issues.
“Nor did the majority address how its ruling would affect sports, college housing, religious employers, health care or free speech,” said Alito.
There are more than seven million people in the U.S. who identify as LGBTQ, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA. Of that number, four million live in states where no laws protect them. Before the ruling, it was legal in more than 50% of states to fire workers for sexual orientation or identity.
A small number of Alaska municipalities and cities, including Anchorage, Juneau and Sitka, have legislation protecting LGBTQ employees, but clearly defined state laws are not on the books. Representatives Grier Hopkins (D) Fairbanks, and Andy Josephson (D) Anchorage have introduced LGBTQ protective legislation. It has not made it through the legislative process as of the end of the recent session.
Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata said he is shocked the country is still dealing with civil rights issues for workers in the year 2020.
Skagway passed the ‘Welcome Resolution’ in May 2017 which works to bring inclusivity to the entire community.
Kristin Wagner, manager at Duff’s Backcountry Outfitters, does not look at sexual orientation or identity as a qualification for employment. She said she focuses on employee sales experience and if the candidate is kind. To Wagner, diversity and hiring people from all walks of life is key.
“Taking care of the customers and cultivating an atmosphere where people can be themselves is the most important rule to uphold,” said Wagner.
Ruling in favor of the decision were Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Gorsuch, Kagan and Sotomayor. Dissenting were Justices Alito, Thomas and Kavanaugh.