Supreme Court should choose people over ideology

As we approach the turn of the decade, we can proudly look back at the meaningful social progress we’ve seen during this time of enormous transition and how it has improved our communities.

But with every egregious move of the Trump administration that threatens to take away yet another basic human right every day – and the fact we have two sitting Supreme Court justices with numerous sexual assault allegations between them – it feels as though we keep going one step forward, two steps back.

Title VII is the result of the landmark federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This statute extends labor protections to ensure no one is fired or prevented from being hired due to belonging to a certain class of people.

On Tuesday, the highest judicial authority in the nation debated the true meaning of “sex” as it pertains to sexual orientation and gender identity. Because these two classes are not explicitly delineated in federal legislation, there is no federal anti-discrimination law that will prevent a member of the LGBT+ community from getting fired because of who they love or how they express themselves.

And while Massachusetts has relatively strong protections for its LGBT+ workers, this is sadly not the case for the majority of states in this country. Only 20 states and Washington, D.C. include explicit anti-discrimination laws on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity, while many states have seen LGBT+ workers – especially teachers and those in other service-sector jobs – arbitrarily fired for something as trivial as a rumor.

Just last year, this state in which we live entertained striking down its anti-discrimination laws on the basis of gender identity when it came to accessing public places, such as restrooms. Although the law was upheld by voters, the fact that more than 800,000 people voted that there should be no such law is alarming. 

Even though same-sex marriage has been federally legal for the past four years, this is an extremely short time in the grand scheme of this country’s history – especially as we are considered to be one of the most advanced nations in the world.

But American popular opinion generally lies on the side of equal rights and protections for LGBT+ citizens. For example, a June CBS News poll indicated that 67% of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 28% are opposed.

To put this into perspective, that same percentage of those who support it today opposed it more than thirty years ago in 1988, and that number continues to dwindle every year.

Today, there is more LGBT+ representation in American media and the United States government than ever before. Many TV shows – for adults and children alike – have explicitly gay characters. Some states have introduced LGBT-friendly sex education into their public school curricula. 

Additionally, there are many openly LGBT+ senators, such as Rep. Tammy Baldwin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Pete Buttigieg is an openly gay presidential candidate who conducts rallies with his husband by his side. 

Would any of this have been possible a decade ago? Probably not. 

But marriage and representation, while important, are not the be-all, end-all of LGBT+ rights.

Many people thought the fight for equality ended with marriage rights, but this is far from the case. In fact, it was this year that Trump’s transgender military ban went into effect, and it took almost 20 years for the Clinton administration’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy to be struck down during the Obama era – which was admittedly progressive for its time.

Furthermore, of the roughly 1.6 million youth facing homelessness in this country, more than 40% of them identify as members of the LGBT+ community. Many of them have been disowned and kicked out by their parents or guardians, and they are unable to support themselves with jobs due to the two-pronged drawback of being both young and LGBT+.

None of the progress we’ve seen so far is truly meaningful if people can fired legally for openly and proudly being who they are and unashamed of whom they’re married to, if people can face consequences in the workplace for not being adhering to gender norms.

And little seems to be done about it. 

The conservative justices of the Supreme Court defended their inaction by saying they do not want to overstep Congress’ purview by extending the legislative definition of sex to encompass sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bush-appointed Justice Samuel Alito expressed doubt that the original statute drafted by Congress was intended to include protections for LGBT+ people. Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch implied that he feared ruling in the LGBT+ workers’ favor would lead to “massive social upheaval.”

And rather than consider the repercussions of a lack of an anti-discrimination law, Chief Justice Roberts worried more about the possibility that such a ruling would take away the protections of employers who choose to be homophobic and transphobic and use religion as an excuse.

Their refusal to acknowledge unmistakable discrimination and create precedent in order to prevent it in the future – instead preferring to hide like cowards behind textualism and doctrine – will definitively land them on the wrong side of history.

If we treat words as though they are immutable in meaning and profess to love ideology more than we love our fellow Americans, we do not truly stand for anything.

The laws of this land are intended to protect our rights, and there are people who take oaths to uphold them – regardless of their political affiliation or unspoken allegiance to certain people in office.

For the sake of LGBT+ and heterosexual Americans alike, we hope the Court’s decision in June will show the justices understand this.

But with every egregious move of the Trump administration that threatens to take away yet another basic human right every day – and the fact we have two sitting Supreme Court justices with numerous sexual assault allegations between them – it feels as though we keep going one step forward, two steps back.

Title VII is the result of the landmark federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This statute extends labor protections to ensure no one is fired or prevented from being hired due to belonging to a certain class of people.

On Tuesday, the highest judicial authority in the nation debated the true meaning of “sex” as it pertains to sexual orientation and gender identity. Because these two classes are not explicitly delineated in federal legislation, there is no federal anti-discrimination law that will prevent a member of the LGBT+ community from getting fired because of who they love or how they express themselves.

And while Massachusetts has relatively strong protections for its LGBT+ workers, this is sadly not the case for the majority of states in this country. Only 20 states and Washington, D.C. include explicit anti-discrimination laws on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity, while many states have seen LGBT+ workers – especially teachers and those in service-sector jobs – arbitrarily fired for something as trivial as a rumor.

Just last year, this state in which we live entertained striking down its anti-discrimination laws on the basis of gender identity when it came to accessing public places, such as restrooms. Although the law was upheld by voters, the fact that more than 800,000 people voted there should be no such law is alarming. 

Even though same-sex marriage has been federally legal for the past four years, this is an extremely short time in the grand scheme of this country’s history – especially as we are considered to be one of the most advanced nations in the world.

But American popular opinion generally lies on the side of equal rights and protections for LGBT+ citizens. For example, a June CBS News poll indicated that 67% of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 28% are opposed.

To put this into perspective, that same percentage of those who support it today opposed it more than thirty years ago in 1988, and that number continues to dwindle every year.

Today, there is more LGBT+ representation in American media and the United States government than ever before. Many TV shows – for adults and children alike – have explicitly gay characters. Some states have introduced LGBT-friendly sex education into their public school curricula. 

Additionally, there are many openly LGBT+ senators, such as Rep. Tammy Baldwin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Pete Buttigieg is an openly gay presidential candidate who conducts rallies with his husband by his side. 

Would any of this have been possible a decade ago? Probably not. 

But marriage and representation, while important, are not the be-all, end-all of LGBT+ rights.

Many people thought the fight for equality ended with marriage rights, but this is far from the case. In fact, it was this year that Trump’s transgender military ban went into effect, and it took almost 20 years for the Clinton administration’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy to be struck down during the Obama era – which was admittedly progressive for its time.

Furthermore, of the roughly 1.6 million youth facing homelessness in this country, more than 40% of them identify as members of the LGBT+ community. Many of them have been disowned and kicked out by their parents or guardians, and they are unable to support themselves with jobs due to the two-pronged drawback of being both young and LGBT+.

None of the progress we’ve seen so far is truly meaningful if people can fired legally for openly and proudly being who they are and unashamed of whom they’re married to, if people can face consequences in the workplace for not being adhering to gender norms.

And little seems to be done about it. 

The conservative justices of the court defended their inaction by saying they do not want to overstep Congress’ purview by extending the legislative definition of sex to encompass sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bush-appointed Justice Samuel Alito expressed doubt that the original statute drafted by Congress was intended to include protections for LGBT+ people. Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch implied that he feared ruling in the LGBT+ workers’ favor would lead to “massive social upheaval.”

And rather than consider the repercussions of a lack of an anti-discrimination law, Chief Justice Roberts worried more about the possibility that such a ruling would take away the protections of employers who choose to be homophobic and transphobic and use religion as an excuse.

Their refusal to acknowledge unmistakable discrimination and create precedent in order to prevent it in the future – instead preferring to hide like cowards behind textualism and doctrine – will definitively land them on the wrong side of history.

If we treat words as though they are immutable in meaning and profess to love ideology more than we love our fellow Americans, we do not truly stand for anything.

The laws of this land are intended to protect our rights, and there are people who take oaths to uphold them – regardless of their political affiliation or unspoken allegiance to certain people in office.

For the sake of LGBT+ and heterosexual Americans alike, we hope the Court’s decision in June will show the justices understand this.

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