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There was widespread celebration today as the Supreme Court ruled that a landmark civil rights law protects gay and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace. But the reactions were mixed with a note of caution
“This ruling is historic,” said Marti Gould Allen-Cummings, the New York drag artist who is standing for city council in 2021. “We just made history in protecting LGBTQIA people. The fight is not yet over for equality. Let’s use this moment to keep pushing for the rights of everyone in our country.”
“This is a major win for trans and queer people amidst a landscape of moral failing and injustice by our country’s leadership,” said Shakina Nayfack, a transgender performer and activist, “and I hope this decision is precedent setting in such a way that it can undo other damage wrought upon the trans community by the Trump administration over the past four years.
“As we enjoy this brief moment of triumph, we should remember that queer liberation started with black and brown trans women fighting against police brutality, and that the civil rights protections newly extended to trans and queer people were fought for and won by Black Americans demanding equality under the law.”
The Supreme Court was ruling on two cases: that of Gerald Bostock and Donald Zarda, who both said they’d been fired from their jobs because they were gay; and of Aimee Stephens, who was fired after she told her employer she was a transgender woman and planned to start dressing in women’s clothing. Neither Aimee nor Donald lived to see the historic ruling – Aimee died last month, and Donald died in 2014.
Lawyers for their employers argued that, while Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans workplace discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and sex, sex discrimination did not apply to gay and transgender workers.
The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling six to three. “It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” the court said. “Discrimination because of sex inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”
Mark Gordon, a transgender man living in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, said: “I experienced discrimination at a well-known company where I worked for over three years, where an employee called me ‘he, she, it – whatever.’ Management did not handle it well, but we settled out of court for an insignificant amount, which was negligible to me, as it was the principle of the matter.”
He added: “I’m thrilled that the country has finally united to give equality for all (in regards to employment) – a triumph in LGBT individuals’ freedom and right to pursue happiness. We will no longer have that obstacle of workplace discrimination and can live without fear and worry while reaping the benefits of full protection.”
“Talk about a rainbow during the storm!” said Benjamin Hey, a singer, songwriter, and model. “I am glad for this good news. The Supreme Court ruling was just and right!. This is Pride month and the days of anybody being discriminated against due to race and, in this specific case, sexuality and gender must end. Enough is e-motherfucking-nough.
“Hate and discrimination have no place in society. My people refuse to go backwards. Personally, I have not experienced overt discrimination due to my sexuality, but I have friends who have. That’s not cool. If I get the job done, then what does it matter? There is no way you can have love in your heart and support discriminatory policies. Love will continue to win.”
Sarah Brown, host of the podcast The Queerience, said: “Today we celebrate that we can’t be fired for who we love, for being who we are. But while this moment is one to celebrate, let us remember we still have so much work to do. We must guarantee heath care for all trans folx, we must guarantee trans folx’ basic rights. Marsha P Johnson started the fight … we are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and we are the ones who will continue to fight.”