WASHINGTON — In a historic decision on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-4 that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people cannot be fired or discriminated against in the workplace under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
LGBTQ leaders across the country rejoiced but could not deny the decision’s shortcomings and continuing injustices facing people of color.
Glenn D. Magpantay, executive director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), said, “Today’s decision is welcome reprieve from the onslaught of crisis over the past year — aggressive ICE enforcement and mass deportations of immigrants, police brutality and the killing of African Americans, and Trump’s elimination of health care protections under the Affordable Care Act. We celebrate and yet we must continue to fight against anti-gay discrimination and legal and cultural racism!”
The court’s decision is a watershed moment for the LGBTQ community, which has been working for decades to secure basic protections from discrimination.
The decision will directly impact millions of people across the country, allowing them to live their lives and take care of their families with respect and dignity. It will directly improve the lives of 11.5 million gay, lesbian, and bisexual people and 1.5 million transgender people living in the U.S., including those among the 5.2 million Asian Americans who live in one of 30 states where they are at risk of being fired, refused housing or denied services simply because they are LGBT.
Stan Yogi said, “Even with this landmark ruling, our work is not finished. There are still critical gaps in federal and state non-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people. When my husband and I visit my in-laws in Texas, we have no legal recourse if a restaurant or hotel refuses to serve us because we’re gay.”
While LGBTQ people now cannot be fired at work, it is still legal under federal law:
• For landlords, stores, restaurants, and hotels to turn away LGBTQ people.
• For hospitals, colleges, and adoption agencies to deny services to LGBTQ people.
• To discriminate against transgender people in restrooms.
One in five (20%) or 1,304,286 Japanese in the U.S. live in one of 30 states where they are at risk of being fired, refused housing or denied services simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
LGBTQ Asian Americans have also faced mistreatment at the hands of the police.
“With the Supreme Court leading the way, Congress must follow suit and pass the LGBT Equality Act. States and cities must defund the police and reinvest in communities. We must abolish ICE and restore immigrants’ rights,” said Magpantay.
“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the ruling. “The answer is clear: An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The ruling came in a case dubbed Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, in which Gerald Bostock argued he was fired as a county employee “simply for being homosexual or transgender,” court documents show. Bostock was allegedly fired for “unbecoming” behavior of a county employee shortly after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league, according to court documents.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed the dissenting opinion, saying that under the Constitution’s separation of powers, the responsibility to amend the employment clause of the Civil Rights Act “belongs to Congress and the president in the legislative process, not to this Court.”
Kavanaugh also said additional laws have been passed by Congress to protect people from workplace discrimination.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center issued a statement hailing the court’s decision.
“To those who argue the Civil Rights Act of 1964 could not have foreseen questions of sexual orientation and gender identity, it is now decided that the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands,’’ according to the center. “Although today’s decision is a historic victory, it comes as we still fight for true equality and justice on many fronts.”