Supreme Court Debate LGBTQ Rights in the Workplace


Elizabeth Sutton

Members of the LGBTQ community wave the rainbow flag at Erie’s Pride Festival on June 29. The flag is a symbol of the rights currently being debated in the Supreme Court

Emma McNeeley, Features Editor

The Supreme Court is currently listening to several cases involving the LGBTQ community and discrimination rights. This outcome could either greatly benefit the community or cause it to go backwards and lose some of the recent wins at the state level. After years of protests and gaining rights, it seems crazy that this is still a debate and an issue for people. 

The cases heard involved two instances of citizens being fired because of their sexual orientations. These cases are Gerald Lynn Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, and Altitude Express Inc. v. Melissa Zarda. 

These cases argued that their employers were violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that prevents discrimination due to sex, race, color and religion. They argued that sexual orientation falls under the category of sex when it comes to discrimination.

When Gerald Bostock worked at the Court Appointed Special Advocates, which helped children dealing with abuse or neglect. When he was fired, he knew it was for being gay, as the employer had learned of his sexual preference right before letting him go, and there had been no previous issues prior to this.

In Zarda’s case, Melissa is representing Don Zarda, her brother, who was a man also fired after his employer found out he was gay. He was fired as a skydiving instructor in 2010 and passed away four years later from a BASE jumping, a more dangerous form of skydiving. Firing a man for liking men is unfair when there are women in the workplace who also like men, it’s just hypocritical. Physical attraction to a gender doesn’t affect one’s ability to do a job. I go to school everyday surrounded by boys and girls, you don’t see it affecting my work. 

It has been established that who you love isn’t a choice, just like your race, hair or eye color. We would think in recent years since the legalization of same sex marriage, the courts have made it clear that sexual orientation falls under discrimination laws. Unfortunately, that point is not being made to many employers who think they can get away with firing people for the wrong reasons.

The third case heard by the court is R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. V. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This case involves the firing of Aimee Stephens, after she told her boss of six years that she would begin transitioning  to be a woman because she is transgender. Her lawyers are arguing that her employer discriminated against her sexual orientation when she was fired, and that this falls under Title VII. However the only reason this is under debate is because when it comes to discrimination of sex, it is not clear whether transgender or sexual orientation is included. 

When all things are really considered and taken in, Aimee was transitioning from one sex to the other. If she was fired for simply being herself, then yes that should be seen as discrimination based on sex. The employer failed to realize that although the law seems broad and unclear, it really does boil down to the fact that she was fired because of her gender. The employer never complained about her previous six years of service, and now that Aimee was transitioning, she could become happier and more comfortable with herself, and likely to be better at her job since she feels comfortable and at peace.

When it comes to making decisions and hearing cases, the results and final decision by the Supreme Court won’t be known until the spring or summer of 2020. The decision of these cases could be huge for the LGBTQ community. If the court rules in favor of the community, this could be a step forward, and could prevent so many from being fired from their jobs. However, if the court rules against it, it could be a huge setback.

Personally this case worries me. I haven’t always felt confident about being open about being bisexual, and with cases like these going on, it only makes me feel insecure in my future job searchme feel insecure in my future job search. Sexual orientation is not a choice, and it does not have an effect on your work ethic. It is shocking to me this is still an issue and we have to wait months to see the outcome.