We hold these truths to be self-evident..
“I’ve talked with our Legal Department and they’ve instructed me to inform you that this is an at-will state, meaning you can be fired at any time, for any reason, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t even sue.”
That was the first sentence the General Manager of the Marriott Hotel where I worked said to me as I sat in his office on the day I came out as transsexual. It was 1992.
After a moment of shock, I replied, “Oh, I can sue. I may not be able to win, but I can always sue. I don’t think either of us really wants the publicity that would come with that, so now that we’ve both got that out of the way, can we really talk?” The wry tone of my voice must have registered with him as he smiled lightly and answered, “yes, of course.” I’m happy to tell you that I did keep my job, and the General Manager turned out to be a strong supporter of mine over time.
The fear of losing one’s job is real for everyone. The fear of being fired for simply being who you are is truly understood by people who have been marginalized for generations: women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.
The institutional persecution of trans people was driven deeper into our souls just days ago on June 12, when Obama-era gains in trans rights were reversed. The Trump administration’s elimination of “Overbroad Provisions Related to Sex and Gender Identity”(1) allowed medical providers to openly discriminate and deny treatment of any kind to transgender people simply because they are transgender. Simply put, to deny gender identity is real is to deny trans people exist. This action, taking place during a worldwide pandemic, and during Pride Month, and on the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub massacre where 102 LGBTQ people were killed or wounded, was a blatant attempt to eliminate trans people. To eliminate me and people like me. Period.
Three days later, the most astonishing and wondrous thing happened. On June 15, the Supreme Court delivered a ruling securing LGBTQ rights and protections in the workplace in a manner on par with the legalization of gay marriage.
The case involved 3 LGBTQ Americans:
- Gerald Bostock was fired for “conduct unbecoming” shortly after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league
- Donald Zarda was fired days after he mentioned being gay
- Aimee Stephens was fired when she informed her employer that she planned to “live and work full-time as a woman”
|“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law…. It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” |
– Justice Neil M. Gorsuch writing for the majority in the 6-to-3 ruling.(2)
This ruling was completely unexpected given the 5-4 conservative makeup of the bench and Chief Justice Roberts’ memorable dissent against gay marriage (3) a few years ago. That Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts both joined the minority on this opinion is astonishing and will have tremendous reverberations for equality in this country. This ruling is a death blow to the Trump Administration’s and Conservative’s agenda to roll back LGBTQ rights, and gives new hope to those who feared the rolling back of Women’s rights as well.
The timing of this affirmation of equality could not be better. While we remain embroiled in the debate as to the depth of systemic racism in our society and how we, as Americans, will strive to correct the injustices black Americans have suffered for hundreds of years, this singular SCOTUS ruling restores my faith in the American heart and spirit. And I hope it does for you as well.
I leave you with another foundational statement of American purpose and pride that resonates as deeply today as it did in 1863.
|“… we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”|
– Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863
Happy Pride, everyone. A very happy Pride, indeed!
(1) Read the full HHS Ruling of Section 1557 here – https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/1557-final-rule.pdf
(2) Read the full opinion on 17-1618 Bostock v. Clayton County here – https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/17-1618_hfci.pdf
(3) Read the full opinion of the 14-556 Obergefell v. Hodges here – https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf