Supreme Court to decide whether LGBTQ workers can be fired
on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation
By SHERI GASSAWAY
St. Louis – Rainbow Workers’ Alliance (RWA), a newly formed grassroots organization, is hosting a rally here in support of LGBTQ workplace protections on Sunday, Oct. 13 as the U.S. Supreme Court considers three cases that could decide if people could be fired for being transgender or gay.
The rally, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., will be in front of St. Louis City Hall at 1200 Market St. The alliance will be joined by the ACLU of Missouri for its 10 Days of Trans Demands campaign, as well Metro Trans Umbrella Group, SIEU Missouri/Kansas and other community and Labor supporters.
On Oct. 8, the court began hearing oral arguments in the three cases on whether or not LGBTQ workers are protected against workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civils Rights Act of 1964. Title VII states discrimination “on the basis of sex” is against the law.
FIRED FOR COMING OUT AS TRANSGENDER
The most notable case involves Aimee Stephens, of Michigan, who was fired shortly after notifying her employer of six years, RG and GR Funeral Homes, that she was a transgender woman and that she would be following the company’s dress code for female employees moving forward.
With the help of the ACLU, Stephens filed a lawsuit against her employer and the Sixth District U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, finding that she had been unlawfully fired in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration filed two amicus briefs with the Supreme Court: one stating that sexuality-based discrimination is not covered under Title VII and the other arguing that transgender people are not protected under Title VII.
TEMINATED FOR BEING GAY
The other two cases in the Supreme Court involve the late Donald Zarda, a New York skydiving instructor, and Gerald Bostark, a Georgia social worker, who were both fired from their jobs after their employers discovered they were gay. The Supreme Court has consolidated those lawsuits and will be hearing them together.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice filed another amicus brief in response to the Zarda and Bostark lawsuits, stating that sexual orientation also is not covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
LANDMARK DECISIONS AFFECTING LGBTQ WORKERS’ RIGHTS
The cases are the first involving LGBTQ rights since Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s gay-rights champion and decisive vote on those issues, retired in 2018, according to a report by NBC News. The cases likely won’t be decided before spring 2020.
If the court finds that gender identity and sexual orientation are covered under the civil rights law, LGBTQ people would be protected from being fired whether or not individual states mandate it. Currently, only 21 states have explicit protection for LGBTQ people in the workplace, and Illinois is one of them. Missouri has no mandates.
If the court decides that gender identity and sexual orientation are not covered under the civil rights law, it could leave millions of LGBTQ people at risk for workplace discrimination and unlawful termination.
RALLY IN ST. LOUIS
RWA leaders will educate the community at the rally on labor and policy strategies to protect LGBTQ workers. The organization’s mission is to secure workplace protections, dignified wages and holistic health for LGBTQTI workers and their intersecting communities in St. Louis.
RWA leaders Amiyah Cole, Jae Shepard and Jessie Eikmann, will speak at the rally. Eikmann is a member of UFCW Local 655.
“I’m lucky that I have a union contract which protects me,” Eikmann said, “Right now, union members lucky enough to have a contract that provides these protections are the only Missouri workers that are safe.”
Other speakers will include Beth Gombos, Metro Trans Umbrella Group leader and director of Queer/Trans Flat; Ann Balay, adjunct professor at St. Louis University; and a member of SEIU Local 1.
(Some information from Business Insider)