The Supreme Court & LGBTQ Protections

Right now, the Supreme Court is considering three landmark cases dealing with anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination. In their decision, the Court will have the opportunity for the first time to say definitively: All LGBTQ people should be able to work hard, make a living, and support themselves and their loved ones without fear of discrimination at work.

We’re mobilizing because the stakes are high. A ruling from the Court suggesting anti-LGBTQ discrimination is lawful would be a huge step backward that would shock the 7 in 10 Americans who support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Because right now the law is on our side: Many federal courts and agencies have long held that firing someone for being LGBTQ is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Court needs to affirm these existing protections—not remove them.

Millions of LGBTQ people report experiencing discrimination in their everyday lives, including on the job, and rely on these protections. A negative ruling would make them even more vulnerable and could lead to our community being stripped of protections in other areas of life. That’s because the legal reasoning underpinning these cases also applies to federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections in housing, healthcare, and more.

The Court will hear argument on all three cases on October 8, 2019. A decision is expected by June 2020.

The Cases

RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens
Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is, her employer fired her, saying it would be “unacceptable” for her to appear and behave as a woman. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March 2018 that when the funeral home fired her for being transgender, it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. Aimee was the same capable employee before and after her transition, but she was fired because she took steps to be the woman she is. That’s sex discrimination.

Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda
Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired from his job in New York for being gay. A federal trial court rejected his discrimination claim, saying that Title VII does not protect him from losing his job for being a gay man. Tragically, in October 2014, Zarda died unexpectedly, but the case continues on behalf of his family. In February 2018, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination based on sex that is prohibited under Title VII. The court recognized that when a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person is treated differently because of discomfort or disapproval that they are attracted to people of the same sex, that’s discrimination based on sex.

Bostock v. Clayton County
Gerald Lynn Bostock was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator in Georgia when his employer learned he is gay. In May 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider an outdated 1979 decision wrongly excluding sexual orientation discrimination from coverage under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination and denied his appeal.


News & Updates

According to the Economist, the case for LGBTQ protections is “well-grounded”

By Shane Stahl • August 12, 2019, 1:45 pm "Does Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination protect gay and lesbian people from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation? Does it safeguard transgender workers from similar bias? The answer turns on whether Title VII protects gay and transgender employees from discrimination."

37 Prominent Conservatives File Brief to U.S. Supreme Court in Support of LGBTQ Protections

By Angela Dallara • July 3, 2019, 2:19 pm Today, 37 current and former Republican elected officials, political advisers, business leaders, lawyers and members of past Republican presidential administrations filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting LGBTQ employment protections.

2,000+ Signers File Nearly 50 Briefs to U.S. Supreme Court in Support of LGBTQ Protections

By Angela Dallara • July 3, 2019, 1:07 pm Today more than 2,000 organizations and individuals are filing 49 friend-of-the-court briefs in three LGBTQ nondiscrimination cases arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits LGBTQ discrimination. 

More than 200 Major Businesses File Landmark Amicus Brief in Support of LGBTQ Workers

By Freedom for All Americans • July 2, 2019, 11:04 am Today, 206 major corporations signed a friend-of-the-court brief that will be filed with the Supreme Court in a trio of cases that may determine whether LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination under existing federal laws.

Making Your Mark and Making a Living: The Need for LGBTQ Employment Protections

By Shane Stahl • June 17, 2019, 9:51 am Learn more about why LGBTQ Americans need explicit employment nondiscrimination protections to allow them to earn a living and provide for themselves.