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Supreme Court Set to Decide If The 1964 Civil Rights Act Applies to LGBT Workers

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees protections from workplace discrimination to gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans Americans.

The three cases have been accepted by the court to be heard.  One of them is Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, No. 17-1623:

The New York case was brought by a skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, who said he was fired because he was gay. His dismissal followed a complaint from a female customer who had voiced concerns about being tightly strapped to Mr. Zarda during a tandem dive. Mr. Zarda, hoping to reassure the customer, told her that he was “100 percent gay.”

Mr. Zarda sued under Title VII and lost the initial rounds. He died in a 2014 skydiving accident, and his estate pursued his case.

Last year, a divided 13-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit allowed the lawsuit to proceed. Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann concluded that “sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination.”

The arguments in the Second Circuit had a curious feature: Lawyers for the federal government appeared on both sides. One lawyer, representing the E.E.O.C., said Title VII barred discrimination against gay people. Another, representing the Trump administration, took the contrary view.

The second case: Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., No. 17-1618. was brought by a child welfare services coordinator who said he was fired for being gay. The 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled against him in a short, unsigned opinion that cited a 1979 decision that had ruled that “discharge for homosexuality is not prohibited by Title VII.”

The third case: R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, No. 18-107, concerns Aimee Stephens, who was fired from a Michigan funeral home after she announced in 2013 that she was a transgender woman and would start working in women’s clothing.  Ms. Stephens had worked at the funeral home for six years.  Two weeks after her announcement the funeral home’s owner, Thomas Rost, fired Ms. Stephens. Asked for the “specific reason that you terminated Stephens,” Mr. Rost said: “Well, because he was no longer going to represent himself as a man.

The cases mark a pivotal moment in the fight for gay civil rights, but the current composition of the court with its two new Trump appointees ― Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch ― has many LGBT advocates and Americans worried.

Currently, 30 states lack laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of both sexual orientation or gender identity

The three cases will be heard sometime in the fall of 2019.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's best known LGBT historians, He is also a a accredited journalist and the owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced on such notable media venues as BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story. Back2Stonewall has been recently added to the Library of Congress' LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive. Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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