Wed, Apr 24, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Top US court to weigh in on gay, transgender rights

AFP, WASHINGTON

The US Supreme Court on Monday said it would take up the question of whether gay and transgender workers are protected by federal law that bars discrimination in the workplace.

The nation’s highest court is considering three related cases, one involving a funeral home worker who was fired after telling her employer she was a transgender woman and would be wearing women’s clothing at work.

In the other two cases, gay workers said they were fired by their employers because of their sexual orientation.

The court is to decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.

In the absence of a ruling from the top court, lower courts have issued contradictory decisions.

The case is likely to be heard in the fall with a ruling issued next year.

The transgender case involves Aimee Stephens, who was fired by R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan after working there for six years as Anthony Stephens.

Stephens sued and earned the support of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under then-US president Barack Obama.

However, the administration of US President Donald Trump has taken the opposite tack, and the president has named two conservative justices to the Supreme Court since taking office.

In the Stephens case, a lower court initially sided with the funeral home, but that ruling was reversed by a federal appeals court, which said that her firing was a form of sex discrimination.

“What happened to me was wrong, it was hurtful and it harmed my family,” Stephens said in a statement issued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing her in court.

“Most of America would be shocked if the Supreme Court said it was legal to fire Aimee because she’s transgender,” ACLU LGBT & HIV Project director James Esseks said. “Such a ruling would be disastrous, relegating LGBTQ people around the country to a second-class citizen status.”

The two other cases are in New York and Georgia.

In the New York case, a sky-diving instructor, Donald Zarda, sued his employer claiming he was fired because he is gay.

Zarda, who died in an accident in 2014, won his case, which is being pursued by his partner and his sister.

In the Georgia case, child welfare services coordinator Gerald Lynn Bostock said that he was dismissed because he is gay.

A court in Atlanta ruled against him, arguing that sexual orientation is not protected under civil rights law.

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