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AWN applauds Supreme Court decision protecting civil rights of queer and trans people at work

AWN applauds today’s long-overdue Supreme Court decision that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects queer and trans employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In the fall, the Supreme Court had heard three related cases all involving employers firing people for being gay or transgender. R. G. & G. R. Harris Funeral Homes fired Aimee Stephens after she came out as a trans woman and told the company she planned to be out at work. Clayton County, Georgia fired George Bostock for “unbecoming” behavior when he joined a gay softball league. Altitude Express fired Donald Zarda only a few days after he mentioned being gay. 

Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that sex-based discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, no matter what other factors may be at play in an employer’s decision. That conservative justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the majority opinion, and fellow conservative chief justice John Roberts joined that majority, only underscores the importance and necessity of protecting queer and trans people’s basic civil rights. 

A significant majority of AWN’s leadership, staff, volunteers, and community members are queer and trans. Unfortunately, many of our community members have experienced the devastating impact of discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere because of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or perceived sexual orientation or gender expression. Recent research shows that trans people are more likely to be autistic than in the overall population, confirming AWN’s experiences in our work. And according to a survey from the National Center for Trans Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force, at least one in four trans people have been fired for being trans, and 90% of trans people have either been outright abused or harassed at work, or have hidden who they are to try to avoid such abuse. 

Coming so soon on the heels of last week’s move by the administration to withdraw discrimination protections in health care for trans people, AWN welcomes the Supreme Court’s clear position that queer and trans people deserve protection – one that is constitutionally binding across the country. Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable at work and when seeing doctors, and to be treated with respect and dignity. We offer our gratitude and admiration for George, Donald, and Aimee – who passed away only last month – and for all of the attorneys and advocates, many trans and queer themselves, who worked on their cases all the way up to the nation’s highest court. We know that unscrupulous employers and doctors will continue to discriminate, and that multiply marginalized queer and trans people will remain at great risk. Yet we celebrate today’s victory, which offers a powerful tool to fight back, as a fitting milestone for Pride Month this year.