Supreme Court to Rule Whether LGBTQ Firing Is Discriminatory

The last thing you want to hear when the Supreme Court is tilted conservative — and with people known to be hostile to the LGBTQ community — is that the court is taking up a wrongful termination case involving an LGBTQ person.

Well, good news: The Supreme Court isn’t taking up a wrongful termination case involving an LGBTQ person.

The bad news: It’s actually hearing three.

The outcomes of these cases could have a tremendous impact on the future ability of LGBTQ people to defend themselves in wrongful termination proceedings. Many states provide few to no legal protections for LGBTQ people in the workplace, making it perfectly legal to discriminate against them. The lack of any national law specifically covering this issue makes people very vulnerable, though they have resorted to some creative litigation strategies in an attempt to establish precedent.

Two of the cases the Supreme Court will be hearing are about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The third involves a trans person, a funeral director who was fired after announcing she was entering transition.

The cases will test the Trump administration’s claim that LGBTQ people are not among the protected classes in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. If they prevail in court, it could be huge for people across the country. If they lose, it could be very bad. And if they get a mixed result, it could further muddy the waters on a topic that has proved surprisingly difficult to resolve: people forced to risk discrimination because of their gender or sexual orientation.

It may not surprise you to learn that notorious anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom has its fingers in this particular pie, hoping to use it to establish litigation that can protect bigots from consequences for discriminatory actions. The group aims to find a friend in the Trump administration, which has consistently engaged in homophobic and transphobic policy moves, including barring trans people from military service and withdrawing anti-discrimination guidance for students.

That being the case, the fact that two out of nine justices on the Supreme Court are Trump appointees should be worrying. While the court interprets jurisprudence independently from the president, political considerations and estimates about how justices might interpret the law are an important part of the nomination and confirmation process. And it seems unlikely that Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch will take an LGBTQ-friendly approach to their decisions.

All three cases are slated for consideration during the Supreme Court’s next term, which starts in the fall. That gives those on all sides ample time to prepare arguments to press their cases. This likely will include a detailed review of numerous lower court decisions, many of which are starting to trend in the direction of treating LGBTQ people as a protected class in employment settings. The Supreme Court will consider those rulings as it develops findings in these cases, along with arguments from attorneys.

Moreover, the Supreme Court is not the only route to secure protections for LGBTQ people. Congress could also take action with legislation that formally adds them to the law, ensuring that they must be treated equally at work and ideally everywhere else. The recently introduced Equality Act aims to do just that. If you haven’t contacted your lawmakers about it yet, now is an excellent time to do it!

Photo credit: FG Trade/Getty Images

37 comments

Thomas M
Thomas M3 days ago

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Daniel N10 days ago

Signed. Thanks.

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Alice L13 days ago

done

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Veronica Danie15 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica Danie15 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica Danie15 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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danii p
danii p15 days ago

tyfs

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danii p15 days ago

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danii p15 days ago

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Peter B15 days ago

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