The whoops and cheers began among Born Perfect staff at 7:04 a.m. local time. The U.S. Supreme Court had just ruled that federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against LGBTQ+ workers. The Court ruled, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.
For those of us who have experienced discrimination in our own lives, and who feared for unemployed friends in a troubled economy, the moment was exhilarating.
“This decision is historic and gives a huge boost to our efforts to end the harms caused by conversion therapy,” said Born Perfect Co-Founder Mathew Shurka. “First and foremost, the ruling destigmatizes LGBTQ+ people by recognizing that they are entitled to nationwide legal protections. In addition, by providing nationwide protection against workplace bias, the Court has removed a major motivation for parents to try to prevent a child from growing up to be LGBTQ+. In so many cases, parents put their children in conversion therapy because they falsely believe they are protecting them from discrimination and bias. By helping to eliminate that discrimination in the workplace, the Court is helping to educate parents that their children can grow up to be productive members of society who will enjoy the same legal protections as others. And finally, the Court’s decision signals to all LGBTQ+ people, including youth, that we are equal, valued, and respected members of society.”
At the same time, this ruling against workplace discrimination is coming down at a time when our country’s failure to come to terms with our history of virulent racism is painfully apparent.
“This ruling inspires us, but it’s happening at a time when we must act anew to support and protect Black lives, particularly Black transgender lives and Black survivors of conversion therapy,” Shurka said. “So our work isn’t done. But this ruling provides a solid foundation for future progress and great hope for the future.”
More legal work to be done
“This is a huge victory not just for LGBTQ people, but for our country, which benefits enormously when LGBTQ people are permitted to participate and contribute on equal terms,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Today’s decision will be remembered as a watershed in the history of LGBTQ rights, even as our country continues to grapple with the brutal legacy of racism. The transgender movement owes a particular debt of gratitude to Aimee Stephens, who courageously fought this battle in the months of her life.”
Despite today’s federal ruling, most states still permit discrimination in public accommodations, such as stores, restaurants, and hotels. And the Trump Administration continues to target LGBTQ people in the military as well as in federally funded programs in health, housing, and education. The Equality Act, proposed federal legislation that would add comprehensive protections for LGBTQ+ people to federal law, is necessary to address these remaining issues of legal discrimination.
Changing Southern LGBTQ+ lives
Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, pointed out that the legislation will help more than 5 million LGBTQ workers in Southern states. “The ruling ensures a blanket of employment protections for LGBTQ people rather than the inadequate patchwork that has all but stopped at the borders of Southern states,” Beach-Ferrara said. “We lift up the reality that Southerners with multiple marginalized identities face multiple layers of oppression. Black LGBTQ Southerners, for example, not only confront employment discrimination but also police brutality, anti-Black racism, and disproportionate rates of living with HIV. As we celebrate today’s ruling, we must continue to push for dignity, respect, and justice for all LGBTQ people in every sphere of life.”
Decades of legal precedent
The ruling rested upon years of legal precedent in workplace discrimination, precedents that were established with the hard work of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, LGBTQ Advocates & Defenders, the Transgender Law Center, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and many other organizations.
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, reflected, “We commend the Supreme Court’s decision to affirm that LGBTQ people are, and should be, protected from workplace discrimination under federal law. The Leadership Conference coordinated the legislative campaign to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and we are proud to see that historic law applied correctly.”
Born Perfect is the leading campaign to end conversion therapy. We are survivors, lawyers, and policy experts working together to protect LGBTQ+ people nationally and around the globe. Born Perfect is a program of National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).