The highest level of law in the U.S. has accepted three landmark civil rights cases to deliver election-year rulings on. On Monday, the Supreme Court announced they will be deciding whether federal anti-discrimination laws prevent employers from firing people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Beginning in October, the justices will start work ruling on three controversial cases involving employees that are gay and transgender. All of the cases take into account whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, also includes discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
These cases will be the first for the new Supreme Court that has President Donald Trump’s pick Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh instead of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Kennedy was an advocate for former gay rights cases, including the right to marry.
With a majority conservative Supreme Court and the Trump administration’s track record on taking away gay and transgender rights and protections, the administration will probably side with employers in the cases.
The majority of states do not protect gay and transgender people. Only 22 states and D.C. have laws providing protection and about half of gay Americans live in those states, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Opponents of protections for LGBTQ people say that that Congress did not have LGBTQ Americans in mind when it banned discrimination on the basis of sex – even though the reason that transgender people are fired for their new identity is because of their preferred way to express their sex and gender.
R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. EEOC
One of the cases to be considered is between a transgender funeral home director who won her case in the lower courts after being fired. Aimee Stephens worked for R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes for six years as Anthony Stephens. After Stephens went on vacation in 2013, she let her company know she would be coming back to work as her true self, Aimee.
But two weeks later, her boss fired her and admitted it was because Stephens would “dress as a woman.”
Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda
Donald Zarda, a gay skydiving instructor, made a joke to a woman who was attached to him for a skydive that she shouldn’t worry because he was gay. The woman consequently complained that Zarda had allegedly touched her inappropriately and Altitude Express fired Zarda.
Zara sued and eventually won his case in the lower courts against the company for discriminating against him due to his sexual orientation. Zarda died in an accident in 2014 but the case was continued on by his sister and a former partner.
Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga
The second case dealing with sexual orientation involves Gerald Lynn Bostock, a social worker in Georgia who lost his case in the lower courts. Bostock alleges that he was fired after his bosses found out that he was gay.