LGBTQ Rights Questioned in Supreme Court

By Dylan Luchsinger ’22

In its latest session, the Supreme Court of the United States has been hearing a case which has implications for LGBTQ rights that could last generations. This case regards Title VII and whether or not this section of the Civil Rights Act protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The first hearing is Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. The county fired Bostock as a Child Welfare Services Coordinator. The official line of reasoning for his removal was “conduct unbecoming of an employee” specifically related to a financial audit. Bostock, however, believes that he was fired because of his sexual orientation and “his participation in a gay recreational softball league.”

The second hearing in the case relates to a slightly different issue. It asks if title VII protects transgender people from being fired. The case R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission revolves around Aimee Stephen’s firing as a result of her gender identity. After being fired due to a failure to follow her workplace dress code, she filed a complaint with the EEOC. The district court ruled in favor of the funeral homes, stating that Title VII did not protect gender identity. The sixth circuit court, however, ruled in favor of the EEOC, reversing the decision of the district court.  

The conservative wing of the Supreme Court has held the position that Title VII does not protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This argument boils down to intent. Objectively, the people who wrote this law were not considering gender identity or sexual orientation at its originally writing. The progressive wing, however, has stood on the other side of this issue. They have stated that Title VII does protect the rights of LGBTQ people. The basis of this argument is that title VII has already been used to protect the rights of people whom it was not originally intended to protect. Ruth Bader Ginsburg argues that the writers of the law were not considering gender discrimination when the law was written, yet, the court has ruled that Title VII protects people from gender-based discrimination. Ultimately this ruling will boil down to the interpretation of the intent of Title VII. Can a 55-year-old law protect people from modern issues, or is a new law necessary to protect them from discrimination? 

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019-20 Print Edition, the full version can be viewed here