It is sad but not shocking that something as fundamental as equal employment rights is up for debate. The recent Supreme Court hearings of cases involving LGBTQ employment rights reveals the amount of growth still needed from all people.
The three cases heard by the Supreme Court, Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, focused on the firings of two gay men, Donald Zarda and Gerald Bostock, and a trans woman, Aimee Stephens, who claim that their coming out lead to their firing. While the court was mostly able to understand and stomach the gay males’ stories, the case involving the firing of the trans woman highlighted both sides’ poor understanding. The casual disrespect towards plaintiff Stephens shows how much growth is needed among the justices.
There seems to be this common thought that we live in an ultra forward-thinking world where LGBTQ people have all the rights they need. You would think that this idea of a liberal fantasyland died with the international elections of a number of far-right leaders, but this myth is still being pushed out there. Straight Twitter users will lead you to believe that this is a queer-focused world where the queer agenda is alive and well as trans women are killed on a near-daily basis.
It can be easy to assume that the right-leaning justices would focus on hot button issues popular among Reddit users. However, it is slightly surprising to hear the amount of time Justice Sonia Sotomayor spent on these right-wing non-issues. It seems that Justice Sotomayor has a desire to learn more and grow, but it is still disappointing for someone who you view as being on your side to entertain these non-issues.
So much of the time spent by the Supreme Court was talking about bathrooms. This non-issue is founded on the idea that those who are not cis-gendered are other and goes back to the historical stereotype of predatory queerness. To play into and entertain the bathroom debate is to entertain and play into these dated, negative stereotypes.
As of now, only 21 states have laws that protect LGBTQ workers from being fired over their sexual orientation or gender identity. Not surprisingly, Mississippi stands as one of the states that allow people to get fired over who they are. While I might have my own fears of losing a job as a gay man in Mississippi, the scariest fears come likely from the trans and non-cis workers. As was shown with how Stephens was treated in comparison to the two gay men, there is an apparent difference in how trans people are treated in the workplace. This difference made clear by the justices’ language makes it even more necessary for Title VII to include the rights of LGBTQ people.
The whole shebang basically relies on Trump-appointed Justice Gorsuch. What a sad world we live in where it is supposed to be celebratory that this case on equal rights has a slight possibility of going 5-4. Yet another day where it seems that gaining sympathy and being a decent human being is a challenge for some.
This case mostly just shows how much we all need to learn. Even those who might think they are on the right path need to step outside their comfort zone and learn more about those around them. This is not some queer-focused world like those on the far right might lead you to believe. There is still so much work to be done.
It should not have to be said, but LGBTQ people deserve equal rights on all fronts. No one should be fired for existing and living in their truth. LGBTQ rights did not end with same-sex marriage. I do not care about getting married. I care about getting money.