Executive Director Noreen Farrell on the SCOTUS Title VII Decision Protecting LGBTQI+ Workers
June 16. 2020
For Immediate Release
Jun 16, 2020
Equal Rights Advocates Executive Director Noreen Farrell released the following statement following the ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States in Bostock v. Clayton County, Altitude Express v. Zarda, and Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC (Stephens), issued June 15, 2020:
“When Equal Rights Advocates launched the nation’s first Lesbian Rights Project decades ago, we dreamed of a day when the highest court in the land would confirm what we knew: that LGBTQI+ workers deserved protection against discrimination. This historic decision by the United States Supreme Court is a monumental step toward that goal.
Holding that ‘an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII’ of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Supreme Court’s decision confirms that discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is discrimination based on sex. It also emphasizes that sex need not be the primary basis of the employment action. Importantly, the Court’s opinion (penned by Trump appointee and conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch) also clarifies that it is irrelevant that the drafters of Title VII might not have intended the law to apply to gay and trans employees: ‘[T]o refuse enforcement just because of that, because the parties before us happened to be unpopular at the time of the law’s passage, would not only require us to abandon our role as interpreters of statutes; it would tilt the scales of justice in favor of the strong or popular and neglect the promise that all persons are entitled to the benefit of the law’s terms.’
The Court’s decision this week honors the lives and courageous fight of the three plaintiffs who brought the case: Gerald Bostock, Donald Zarda (who passed away in 2014), and Aimee Stephens, (who passed away just last month). May Aimee and Donald rest in power. We thank them and their attorneys for the leadership, determination, and bravery which yielded this landmark result.
The timing of the Court’s decision is meaningful, at a moment when the rights of so many throughout the country are under attack. This ruling comes days after the Trump Administration reversed Obama-era protections that prohibit discrimination in health care based on gender identity, and as we mourn the brutal murders of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells of Pennsylvania, and Riah Milton of Ohio. May they, too, rest in power. Their short lives are a testament to how much is left to be done in our fight for true equity, especially for Black trans women, who are murdered at an alarmingly high, disproportionate rate.
At this pivotal time in our nation’s history, we hope this decision is one indicator that we are at a turning point for the advancement of civil rights and equity. As we celebrate today, Equal Rights Advocates recommits to our duty and mission to ensure that everyone in the United States can benefit from the protections of the anti-discrimination laws of this country, and can live freely, safely, and openly, without fearing of reprisal just because of who they are.”