10/8/18 – Supreme Court takes up cases involving LGBT and civil rights laws

Supreme Court of the United States. Photo Courtesy of Fair Use.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in two cases over whether federal civil rights law protects LGBT people from job discrimination.

The cases Tuesday are the court’s first on LGBT rights since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and replacement by Justice Brett Kavanaugh. A decision is expected by early summer 2020.

The issue is whether a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bars discrimination in employment because of sex covers LGBT people.

The Trump administration has changed course from the Obama administration and now supports the employers in arguing that the civil rights law’s Title 7 does not prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation or transgender status.

People have been waiting in line outside the court since the weekend to try to snag the few seats the court makes available to the public for arguments.

The justices will first hear appeals in lawsuits filed by Gerald Lynn Bostock, who claims he lost his job working for Clayton County, Georgia, after he began playing in a gay recreational softball league. He lost his case in federal district court and at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Skydiving instructor Donald Zarda was fired shortly after telling a woman he was preparing to take on a dive that he was gay. Zarda, who worked for Altitude Express on New York’s Long Island, said he would sometimes reveal his sexual orientation to allay concerns women might have about being strapped together during a dive. Zarda initially lost his lawsuit, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for him. Zarda has since died.

The other case involves fired transgender funeral home director Aimee Stephens. She lost her job when she told Thomas Rost, owner of the Detroit-area R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, that she had struggled with gender identity issues and was planning to change how she dressed. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued on her behalf and, after losing in a district court, won a ruling in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.