Few were likely surprised Friday when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) capitulated to the so-called “religious right” and announced it would be overturning Obama-era transgender protections against sex discrimination in health care.
Then came Monday’s Supreme Court decision ruling the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination.
At a time when we see 5-4 decision after 5-4 decision, mostly in favor of the nation’s highest court conservatives, this decision–the culmination of three cases–is shocking many considering the decision’s author is Donald Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch.
“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act] forbids.”
Samuel Alito dissented, countering:
“In 1964, ordinary Americans reading the text of Title VII would not have dreamed that discrimination because of sex meant discrimination because of sexual orientation, much less gender identity.”
Some argue the Court’s ruling strikes a blow to the HHS rollback since, according to Axios, “The same legal interpretation will likely carry over to other areas, most notably health care—and that could cause problems for some of the Trump administration’s policies.”
Human Rights Campaign president, Alphonso David, explained:
“The court here today clearly articulated that discrimination based on sexual orientation, discrimination based on gender identity, are forms of sex discrimination. So, we are expecting the administration to rescind their rule immediately. If they don’t, we are prepared to continue to use all of our resources, including litigation, to sue them and make sure that the rule is never implemented.”
“It may take a while for some of these issues to work their way through the courts, but the Supreme Court’s ruling Monday will make many forms of LGBTQ discrimination harder to defend, and in the scheme of things, that will likely happen pretty quickly.”
Celebrating the historic milestone, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, Chase Strangio, said:
“This is going to have a transformative effect on federal civil rights laws in the context of housing, education and healthcare, as well as credit.”
In this time of despair, struggle, and anger, it’s important to remind ourselves what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said amid his struggle that resulted in the 1964 Civil Rights legislation responsible for this week’s watershed moment:
The fight is far from over.
It will never be over.
We got this far because of our relentless commitment to justice and a more egalitarian, compassionate country.
From police reform, LGBTQ equality, racial justice, economic justice, healthcare, education, foreign policy, more progress will come as long as we never let up.