While the court’s decision represents a landmark victory, a Florida advocate says it is still legal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in other ways.
Florida — The past few days have been the best of times and the worst of times for LGBTQ communities across the country. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided by a 6 to 3 vote that a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits job discrimination because of sex, among other reasons, encompasses bias against LGBTQ workers.
“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,” wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch, who authored the opinion. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The three dissenting judges were Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.
This comes as great news for the estimated 8.1 million LGBTQ workers across the country, as most states don’t protect them from workplace discrimination.
But just three days prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Florida and in the middle of Pride month, President Trump reversed non-discrimination health care protections for transgender patients that had been put in place by President Obama.
Recently, organizations including Human Rights Campaign, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Giffords Law Center, and Equality Florida, flagged a significant increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, especially against transgender people. Advocates also saw a 43% increase in the formation of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in 2019.
This comes as a grim reminder that although Monday’s decision represents a landmark victory for the LGTBQ community, it is still legal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in other ways: in federally funded programs, including hospitals, colleges, and adoption agencies, as well as against women and LGBTQ people in public accommodations such as hotels and restaurants.
The Path Forward
For LGBTQ advocates full equality under the law does not mean, as many opponents believe, “special rights,” Orlando Gonzales, Executive Director of Florida’s Safeguarding American Values for Everyone (SAVE) told The Americano.
“Failure to understand that we seek the same rights and protections is a failure to understand American values,” he says.
According to Gonzales, the current administration has established policies that promote discrimination in critical institutions such as health care services, schools, and in the US Armed Forces.
In 2019 alone, the Trump Administration allowed taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to use “religious beliefs” as an excuse to deny placement of children into homes of LGBTQ couples. That same year Trump erased the LGBTQ community from The National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living.
“These are key surveys that are used to help provide care to American seniors, including disability, transportation, and caregiver support needs,” said Gonzales. “In Florida, we need to pass a statewide non-discrimination policy to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing and public accommodations.”
He also calls for a statewide ban on “conversion therapy”, which seeks to remove a person’s feelings of same-sex attraction or change their gender identity.
“Furthermore, there’s also a need to modernize HIV criminalization laws and improve our judicial nomination process,” said Gonzales.
The Power of Standing Up for Change
Hours after learning of the court’s ruling, Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force and National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, called out the true heroes behind the landmark decision.
“Every person celebrating this ruling has decades of work by Black and Brown trans members of our community, in particular, to thank for the ability to work free from discrimination,” Carey said. “While [the Supreme Court’s decision] is a watershed moment for fairness and equality in our struggle for LGBTQ liberation, we still have work to do.”
“The best path forward at the local and state level is by making sure voters elect pro-equality candidates that will help pass laws that support the community,” Gonzales added.