Today, we take a moment to recognize and celebrate the United States Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) decision to uphold protections for LGBTQI people in the workplace. The ruling is a historic one for the entire LGBTQI community, and specifically marks the most sweeping legal protections for trans communities in U.S. Supreme Court history.
Until yesterday, it was still legal to fire people for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in more than half of U.S. states. SCOTUS ruled that firing employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is sex discrimination that violates federal law. As we shared in our October statement, the cases leading to yesterday’s ruling were cited as the single most important set of explicitly LGBT cases to reach the Supreme Court because they encompassed both sexual orientation and gender identity, and so impact the livelihoods of all LGBTQI people and women in the United States.
However, as we take a moment to find joy and relief in this victory, we know that the fight for justice is far from over. The very fact that three cases in 2020 even questioned whether it is lawful to fire someone simply for being LGBTQI, is evidence that many in the US continue to believe that LGBTQI people are not entitled to the same protections as our cisgender and/or heterosexual counterparts.
The ruling itself comes on the heels of the U.S. administration’s recent decision to revoke protections for trans people experiencing discrimination in the healthcare system, as well as a surge in violence against trans women and transphobic discourse online. We know that trans and gender non conforming (TGNC) people, TGNC people of color, and especially Black trans women are already disproportionately impacted by discrimination in the workplace leading to higher incidents of poverty and poor health. For many, these protections are a small win in the larger struggle to secure legitimacy and right to life.
Nationwide anti-racism and anti-policing protests are entering their fourth week with demonstrations in support of Black Trans Lives drawing thousands across the country this past weekend and speaking to the disproportionate harm faced by Black trans people. These uprisings and the forward movements we’re seeing are the culmination of decades of powerful movement building by anti-racism, abolitionist, and gender justice activists. Yet, just this week, SCOTUS declined to take up qualified immunity, despite consistent calls by BLM and other organizers for this issue—along with wider calls for defunding policing—to be considered by the courts.
All this is of course taking place amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic which continues to have an undue impact on Black, Brown, Indigenous, and TGNC communities in the United States. There is much work to be done, and if this ruling is to signal the wide reaching legitimacy and right for TGNC people to exist and thrive, we must continue to resource, center and build on the critical work of grassroots TGNC, Black and POC-led organizing.
We express our deep appreciation for all the lawyers, activists, and others in the LGBTQI community who led us to this SCOTUS victory. Simultaneously, we lift up the work of all—particularly the Black, Brown, Indigenous, and trans-led grassroots organizations—who continue to work towards ending discrimination and violence in every form, ultimately pushing for our collective liberation.