This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing cases regarding whether or not the Civil Rights Act protects members of the LGBTQIA+ community against workplace discrimination. Specifically, the justices are hearing cases from two gay men as well as a transgender woman, who have said that they were fired from their workplaces because of their identities.
It is 2019, yet we still cannot treat all people equally. No one should be fired solely because of who they love or how they express themselves.
The main point of argument in the case comes from Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. However, it does not explicitly say anything about gender identity or sexual orientation. This is what the justices are questioning.
Regardless of what Title 7 says, or does not say for that matter, is it really that hard to just treat people with respect? A person’s gender identity and sexual orientation should have no bearing on their job.
However, some are arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity should remain separate from the protections of the Civil Rights Act. These people also believe that Congress should be in charge of creating protections for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and the Supreme Court should not have the authority to rule on the meaning of the Civil Rights Act in this way.
With this logic, Congress would create protective legislation for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, they have yet to create such a sweeping legislation that protects them in all 50 states.
Today, 28 states still do not have explicit laws protecting people from discrimination based on people’s sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Both Utah and Wisconsin have only certain laws protecting the LGBTQIA+ community, leaving only 20 states that have full protections for them.
If the Supreme Court does rule in favor of protections for the LGBTQIA+ community, it will drastically change how many people around the country are treated in their workplace.
Although the purpose of Title 7 in the Civil Rights Act at the time may not have been to protect the LGBTQIA+ community, at this point in time, the community should have the same protections as everyone else in the nation. Who you love and what gender you express should not determine whether or not you can be employed — all that matters is if you are qualified for the job and if you can perform it properly.
The Supreme Court Justices are split on the issue. Chief Justice John G. Roberts voiced his concern regarding protections for the employers, Justice Stephen Breyer compared firing someone from the LGBTQIA+ community to firing someone because they married someone of a different religion and Justice Sonya Sotomayor, towards the end of the oral arguments, pointed out that members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been historically discriminated against, and it is important to protect them, in the way that other minority groups are protected.
Clearly the decision is a complicated one, especially with the debate of whether or not the Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Civil Rights Act like this, or if it is Congress that has this power.
However, if Congress has no plans to protect members of the LGBTQIA+ community — who are citizens of this country — it is important to consider the fact that over half of U.S. states still do not have laws that protect the LGBTQIA+ community. If the Supreme Court doesn’t rule in favor of the plaintiffs, there is no telling when these protective laws will apply to all 50 states.
This decision is not a clear-cut one, however, a positive ruling will be a victory for the LGBTQIA+ community. This will greatly improve their work environments and thus improve their lives.
Anika Veeraraghav is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.