US Human Rights Network Blog
USHRN Celebrates Historic Supreme Court Decision Protecting LGBTQIA+ People from Employment DiscriminationJun 29, 2020
Pride Month 2020 has been a historic and unexpected month on many fronts. This year’s Pride Month has marked what feels like a big step towards ending the status quo in the United States. We have seen an entire month of daily protests around the country with thousands of people taking to the streets demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism, and justice for Black trans lives. Celebrations of Pride have intersected with the Black Lives Matter movement and brought historic and contemporary LGBTQIA+ leaders of color to the forefront, highlighting injustices faced by Black and brown LGBTQIA+ community members who have too often been excluded from Pride stories.
This month the highest court in the country made a historic decision on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination “because of sex.” The Supreme Court decided that “sex” discrimination includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This is the first major Supreme Court case on transgender rights and means that LGBTQIA+ people who experience workplace discrimination now have recourse at the federal level for the first time ever. Previously, people could be fired based on their gender identity or sexual orientation in more than half of the states in the US. There are over 100 federal statutes that prohibit discrimination because of sex, covering access to domains including housing, education and healthcare; this ruling has the potential to have farreaching implications for LGBTQIA+ people who experience discrimination in these and many other arenas.
According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “The legal obligations of States to safeguard the human rights of LGBT people are well established in international human rights law on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequently agreed international human rights treaties. All people, irrespective of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to enjoy the protections provided for by international human rights law, including in respect of rights to life, security of person and privacy, the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”
While we celebrate this important Supreme Court decision, which we believe will have real material impacts especially for groups who are disproportionately affected by employment discrimination like transgender people and transgender people of color, we also uplift that there is much more work to be done. The very same decision that ruled to include sexual orientation and gender identity under “sex” discrimination also noted that there is possible constitutional exemption to nondiscrimination laws based on religious liberty; the Supreme Court will soon be reviewing another important LGBTQIA+ case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia that will be key to understanding just how much we have gained in this month’s decision.
We uplift the fact that transgender women of color remain the people most at risk of homicide in the United States; at least 14 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been violently killed in 2020, including Riah Milton and Dominique Rem’Mie Fells who were both Black transgender women killed during this Pride Month. We are encouraged by the showing of public support for Black Trans Lives through mass protests this month, but we know there remains much more work to be done for justice. Just a week before the Supreme Court’s recent decision, the Trump administration finalized a regulation that will remove protections for transgender patients against healthcare discrimination -- a decision that was announced on the anniversary of the Pulse Massacre. This decision is one of a long string of concerted efforts by the Trump administration to limit the legal definition of sex discrimination so as not to include discrimination based on gender identity. In spite of recent wins, we must remain vigilant.
Please review our list of resources to educate yourself and to support Black Trans Lives:
More information on the Supreme Court’s Pride Month decision (“Supreme Court's LGBTQ ruling could have 'broad implications,' legal experts say”, NBC News)
Report on violence against transgender people (“Dismantling a Culture of Violence: Understanding Anti-Transgender Violence and Ending the Crisis,” Human Rights Campaign)
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