The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday, October 8th in a set of cases that could determine whether millions of LGBTQ American workers will be protected under the country’s most prolific anti-discrimination law in the federal workplace. These decisions would settle the question of whether LGBTQ individuals could be legally fired simply because of who they are and how they identify. The big dilemma is that two of the newly appointed judges now include two highly Conservative justices appointed by the Trump administration, Neil Gorsuch and the extremely controversial Brett Kavanaugh. These cases are the first LGBTQ related cases to be presented to the Supreme Court since the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had long been a champion for the LGBTQ social movement.
The three cases involve three individuals who believe they were fired because of their sexual identities.
- Gerald Bostock of Georgia was working in child welfare services and was lauded with consistent positive performance reviews. One of his biggest accomplishments was supplying a volunteer to every neglected or abused child in the welfare system. He was let go soon after word got out that he had joined a gay softball league.
- Donald Zarda was fired from his position as a skydiving instructor after revealing his sexual orientation to a female client.
- Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman, worked as director of a Detroit area funeral home. Soon after she revealed that she was about to transition, she was fired.
These landmark court cases were so important and crucial for the equal rights of LGBTQ people that support for these plaintiffs was imperative. That’s when New Yorkers got involved. Two busloads of activists launched from in front of The Stonewall Inn in the heart of the West Village at 5 am Tuesday morning. The buses were filled with members of a Hunter college student group, Voices 4 (@voices4_) as well as members of the activist group Gays Against Guns (www.gaysagainstguns.net), formed in response to the Pulse Orlando Massacre. The trip was sponsored by The Stonewall Gives Back Initiative (www.stonewallinitiative.org), a relatively newly formed non-profit offshoot of The Stonewall Inn, which acts as a funnel for various LGBTQ organizations around the country where equality is less advanced, raising awareness for various causes and political concerns. The organization has helped raise money for Proyecto Matria, which helped aid women and LGBTQ people displaced by Hurricane Maria as well as helped fund one of the first Midwest Pride parades.
I went along for the ride.
The day was ominous, gray skies and the possible threat of rain loomed over the capital. While on the bus, we heard news of a suspicious package in the area that led to the evacuation of the protestors which delayed the progress of the demonstration. By the time we arrived, the front porch of The Supreme Court was already filled back up with demonstrators from both sides of the argument. Radical feminist members of Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) and Concerned Women of America (CWA) clashed, albeit civilly, with members of various groups including our own. Speakers from both sides of the argument took turns on the microphone to inspire their supporters while the political process continued inside the court.
The day crescendoed as an army of employees and clients from Housing Works Inc., a New York-based grassroots organization that offers advocacy, employment opportunities and housing for homeless people with HIV and/or AIDS, practiced a civil disobedience demonstration in the middle of the street outside the court. Over one hundred protestors were arrested. The various songs and chants of the day still reverberate in my head. The entire rally created much publicity and was featured on various news channels as well as the talk show “The View”. Overall, the day’s events have definitely put the brevity of the rulings on the cultural map and many more people are aware of the ramifications these laws have depending on the direction of the decision.
There will not be any decisions made until most likely next Summer, but the attorneys for the plaintiffs were seen smiling as they left the courtroom, most likely an acknowledgment of the hundreds of people in attendance supporting their clients. Only time will tell what the outcome will be.