US top court divided as it ponders LGBT rights

The US Supreme Court appears divided over whether a civil rights law barring workplace discrimination applies to gay and transgender workers.

The top court heard arguments regarding two cases of alleged discrimination against gay employees, and a third involving transgender discrimination.

Protesters from both sides gathered outside the court as arguments began.

The cases may be a landmark for LGBT rights in the US, four years after gay marriage became legal nationwide.

The top court's liberal quartet indicated their agreement with the plaintiffs and the argument that LGBT workers should be covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Of the conservative justices, only Trump-appointed Neil Gorsuch appeared sympathetic to the plaintiffs - an early signal that he may cast the decisive vote.

Decisions from the nine justices on America's highest court are due by next June.

What are the cases?

The first two cases have been consolidated as both address the purported discrimination of gay employees.

Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor from New York, and Gerald Bostock, a former child welfare services co-ordinator from Georgia, both say they were fired because of their sexual orientation.

Mr Zarda, who died in a skydiving accident in 2014 , was dismissed after joking with a female client with whom he was tandem-diving not to worry about the close physical contact because he was "100% gay".

The company maintained he was fired because he shared personal information with a client, not because he was gay, but a court in New York ruled in Mr Zarda's favour.

Mr Bostock says he lost his job after joining a gay recreational softball league, thereby publicly revealing his sexual orientation.

His employer, Clayton County, said his dismissal was the result of "conduct unbecoming of a county employee".

Mr Bostock lost his discrimination case in a federal court in Atlanta.

Michigan funeral home employee Aimee Stephens says she was fired for coming out as transgender.

She had worked as Anthony Stephens for six years before writing a letter to colleagues saying she would return to work "as my true self, Aimee Australia Stephens, in appropriate business attire".

Two weeks later, Ms Stephens was fired for insisting to work in women's clothes.

In a court filing last year, the funeral home owner argued it wanted Ms Stephens to comply with a dress code "applicable to Stephens' biological sex".

A lower court sided with Ms Stephens.

The US Department of Justice under President Donald Trump has supported the employers in each case.

What's the legal background?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as gender, race, colour, national origin and religion.

The legal arguments hinge on whether "sex" may apply to sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

So far, most federal appeals courts in the US have interpreted the law to exclude discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

But two courts, in New York and Chicago, recently ruled that discrimination against LGBT people is a form of sex discrimination.

Conservative groups argue that sexual orientation and gender identity may not be equated to the forms of discrimination already delineated in the Civil Rights Act.

"Congress never intended sexual orientation or the personal feelings of transgender individuals to be included in the concept of sex discrimination," said Walker Wildmon, vice president for The American Family Association, in a statement.

He added that religious individuals should be allowed "to operate their businesses according to their deeply held religious beliefs" - a defence broadly dismissed by LGBT advocates.

"In 29 states, a person can be fired for their gender identity and sexual orientation," Human Rights Council press secretary Charlotte Clymer told the BBC. "It's not about religious freedom, it's about pushing LGBT people out of the public square."

"The fact that you can get married on Sunday and fired on Monday for being LGBTQ, I believe, presents a pretty massive problem for our community and for society," she said.

What happened in court?

The Supreme Court justices appeared divided on Tuesday on whether Title VII protects gay, lesbian and transgender employees.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito said that if the provision is found to cover LGBT individuals, the court would be seen as deciding "a major policy question" - taking the place of the legislature.

Chief Justice John Roberts, sometimes seen as the ideological centre of the bench, was considered a possible swing vote on the issue.

He asked on Tuesday whether, if the court were to rule that sexual orientation is covered by Title VII, exemptions would be granted for employers with strong religious beliefs.

Of the conservative justices it was the Trump-appointed Mr Gorsuch who voiced sympathy for the fired workers, saying sex seemed to be a "contributing cause" for their dismissals.

He also seemed amenable to the argument that "sex" in the Civil Rights Act could be applied to sexual orientation, whatever Congress had in mind during the law's writing in 1964.

He later expressed concern, however, of judicial overstep. Echoing Mr Alito, Mr Gorsuch warned of "massive social upheaval" if the court were to rule in favour of LGBT workers, instead of allowing Congress to legislate on the subject.

But liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked "at what point" a court could "continue to allow individuous discrimination".

She continued: "We can't deny that homosexuals are being fired just for who they are."

It is the first time the top US court has heard a case involving gay rights since 2018.

Since then the balance of the court has tilted to a 5-4 conservative majority, including Trump appointees Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The closely-watched Mr Kavanaugh has so far said little to indicate his stance.

Dozens of people demonstrated outside the Supreme Court building, holding signs that say: "Trans people belong", "We will fight back" and other slogans that underscore their message - gay and transgender rights should be protected in the workplace.

The issue being considered by the court has important legal implications, as activists explain, saying no-one should be sacked for being gay. The matter also has political implications - evangelical Christians, many of whom helped Trump get elected, think the laws should not change and are hoping the court will agree.

For Trump, the ruling will either provide a victory or a setback for his supporters. The progressive activists are naturally campaigning for a victory for their side. With that goal in mind, one activist is holding a sign: "Surrender Donald." BBC

 
 

Other News

.
Vietnam promotes and protects human rights in Covid-19 epidemic
Vietnam promotes and protects human rights in Covid-19 epidemic
SOCIETYicon  27/12/2020 

The efforts of the Vietnamese Government during the Covid-19 epidemic is vivid evidence of the responsibility to protect and support vulnerable groups in the realization of human rights according to UPR recommendations.

A special flight to guarantee citizens' right to life
A special flight to guarantee citizens' right to life
SOCIETYicon  26/12/2020 

The campaign to move Vietnamese citizens out of Hubei (China), the world’s corona virus epicenter in early February is a proof of the policy of putting people in the highest position,

Building a specialized monitoring agency to increase effectiveness in ensuring the rights of ethnic minorities
Building a specialized monitoring agency to increase effectiveness in ensuring the rights of ethnic minorities
SOCIETYicon  28/12/2020 

It is necessary to have a specialized monitoring agency to ensure the rights of ethnic minorities. 

Law on Support for and Development of Ethnic Minorities and Mountainous Areas should be issued
Law on Support for and Development of Ethnic Minorities and Mountainous Areas should be issued
SOCIETYicon  27/12/2020 

It is necessary to pass the promulgation and implementation of the "Law on Support for and Development of Ethnic Minorities and Mountainous Areas" 

The government accepts economic damage to guarantee the right to health care for everyone
The government accepts economic damage to guarantee the right to health care for everyone
SOCIETYicon  27/12/2020 

Despite many difficulties, in order to protect people's health, the Government plans to both self produce and import Covid-19 vaccine in order to vaccinate every citizen.

Human rights viewed from illegal sales of personal information
Human rights viewed from illegal sales of personal information
SOCIETYicon  29/12/2020 

Illegally holding, trading, or transferring personal information of another person without authorization is infringement of privacy - one of the fundamental rights of human rights.

After 5 years, our country is really better, all people enjoy development results
After 5 years, our country is really better, all people enjoy development results
SOCIETYicon  27/12/2020 

After implementing the five-year social-economic development plan (2015-2020), the country’s situation is really better than ever, with high economic growth rate,

Human rights considerations: Dialogue and cooperation are the only effective way
Human rights considerations: Dialogue and cooperation are the only effective way
SOCIETYicon  27/12/2020 

Vietnam does not support resolutions on human rights in a particular country but believes that dialogue and cooperation are an effective way to consider human rights issues, not criticize each other or pressuring, politicizing human rights.

Resolution No. 28-NQ/TW: A progressive resolution promoting the right to social security
Resolution No. 28-NQ/TW: A progressive resolution promoting the right to social security
SOCIETYicon  27/12/2020 

Resolution No. 28-NQ/TW, issued on May 23, 2018 of the Party Central Committee, is considered to have the contents of reforming the social insurance policy progressively, 

Despite difficulties, Vietnam constantly promotes the right to social security
Despite difficulties, Vietnam constantly promotes the right to social security
SOCIETYicon  28/12/2020 

The 2013 Constitution of the State of Vietnam recognizes citizens' rights to social security in Article 34. Accordingly, citizens are ensured in terms of social welfare.

Accepting economic losses, protecting people's lives at all costs
Accepting economic losses, protecting people's lives at all costs
SOCIETYicon  28/12/2020 

On the basis of the humanistic point of view of "not letting anyone behind", by specific actions, ensuring human rights, the campaign against Covid-19 pandemic of Vietnam is an outstanding success, becoming a bright spot in the world.

Vietnam - a typical case of integrating human rights protection
Vietnam - a typical case of integrating human rights protection
SOCIETYicon  28/12/2020 

Chairman of the Mary Robison Foundation said that Vietnam is a typical case of integrating human rights issues, including the promotion of gender equality in climate change response policies.

Achievements in ensuring human rights, the premise for Vietnam’s positions at international forums
Achievements in ensuring human rights, the premise for Vietnam’s positions at international forums
SOCIETYicon  28/12/2020 

The outstanding results in the international arena, with the most typical one is being elected as the Non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council, have confirmed the new stature of the Vietnamese State.

Ministry of Information and Communications strives to contribute to protecting children's rights in cyberspace
Ministry of Information and Communications strives to contribute to protecting children's rights in cyberspace
SOCIETYicon  28/12/2020 

Building a child protection network in the cyberspace will connect agencies, organizations and businesses together, forming a harmonious process to prevent, detect, intervene and handle acts of child abuse in the Internet environment.

Vietnam - a responsible member of international human rights conventions
Vietnam - a responsible member of international human rights conventions
SOCIETYicon  27/12/2020 

Through international cooperation activities on human rights, Vietnam has played an increasingly important role and actively contributed to the building of common values of human rights in the region and the world.

Efforts of the whole socio-political system to "Leaving no one behind"
Efforts of the whole socio-political system to "Leaving no one behind"
SOCIETYicon  29/12/2020 

For any political regime, social security in general, social insurance and health insurance policies in particular are also considered an important foundation for a country’s economic development and socio-political stability.

Vietnam listed among countries with high Human Development Index for the first time
Vietnam listed among countries with high Human Development Index for the first time
SOCIETYicon  29/12/2020 

Human rights or human development is a central issue in the development process in Vietnam. 

Human Rights achievements: Impressive communications from direct to online mode
Human Rights achievements: Impressive communications from direct to online mode
SOCIETYicon  27/12/2020 

In addition to communication methods such as writing articles, activities of agencies and organizations, the propaganda of human rights is also implemented through the organization of photo exhibitions and advanced IT applications.

Impressive model of friendly bookcase at Ngoc Ly detention center
Impressive model of friendly bookcase at Ngoc Ly detention center
SOCIETYicon  26/12/2020 

The fact has proven that converting and making changes in awareness is the best way of education. It will awaken the germ of goodness which is inherent and latent in each human being.

The role of journalists is indispensable for protection of human rights
The role of journalists is indispensable for protection of human rights
SOCIETYicon  26/12/2020 

The media plays the role of an essential means of communication in social life, the mouthpiece of the Party's agencies, the State, political and social organizations, the forum of the people.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN