The U.S. Supreme Court justices heard arguments in three sex discrimination cases on Tuesday, and their decisions on the cases will have wide ranging effects. By the questions they asked the attorneys, the justices appear to be divided in their understanding. This should come as no surprise to Americans because the justices range from far left liberal to quite conservative and everywhere in between the two extremes.
The three cases involve employees being fired, and the defendants seek a ruling on the question, does firingsomeone who is gay or transgender violate the prohibition on sex discrimination of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Since the cases are similar, the justices heard them together.
Bostock v. Clayton County involves Gerald Bostock who worked for ten years as a child welfare coordinator for the Clayton County Juvenile Court System in Georgia before he was fired. He claims that he was fired because he is gay. Title VI prohibits employment discrimination but does not forbid employer firing a gay employee. Lower courts ruled against Bostock. He wants the Supreme Court to decide if the lower court’s interpretation of Title VI is correct, or if a ban on sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Zarda v. Altitude Express involves Don Zarda, a skydiving instructor at Altitude Express, who was fired in the summer of 2010 after telling a guest that he is gay. He died in a skydiving accident in 2014, but his sister and partner are pursuing the case. The justices are to decide if discrimination on the basis of sex also include discrimination based on sexual orientation.
EEOC v. Harris Funeral Homes concerns Aimee Stephens who was hired as a man as a funeral director for Harris Funeral Homes and later came out as a transgender woman. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission represents Stephens in her suit against Harris Funeral Homes. An appeals court ruled in her favor. She is asking the Supreme Court to decide if sex discrimination includes discrimination based on gender identity and if employers have the right to require employees to comply with a sex-specific dress code based on their biological sex.
The justices understand that their ruling on these high-profile LGBTQ cases will affect many more people than just the LGBTQ workers represented in the cases. Their concerns are shown by their questions.
Chief Justice John Roberts wondered if business owners’ abilities to run their businesses in accordance to their personal beliefs will be jeopardized if the court rules in favor of gay rights. He realizes that the Supreme Court does not have the same abilities to expand protection for faith-based businesses that state legislatures do when passing new protections for LGBTQ workers. What will happen to the people who have religious objections to same-sex relationships and transgenderism?
Justice Neil Gorsuch wondered how a ruling for LGBTQ workers might affect employers nationwide and what it might require businesses to do. He wondered if it is appropriate for judges to cause such “massive social upheaval” as requiring businesses to update dress codes and bathroom policies.
Justice Samuel Alito was concerned about the Supreme Court overstepping its authority and becoming a second Congress by creating new laws because of the failures of elected officials.
The justices have a right to be concerned about the wide-ranging and long-term results of their ruling. Some legal experts believe that this ruling will be as significant as the 2015 same-sex marriage ruling. The big question is, is discrimination based on biological sex the same thing as discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Even though the three cases seem to be focused primarily on employment law, the decisions by the justices will affect many other areas. A ruling against the LGBTQ workers will affect gay and transgender people across America. A ruling for the LGBT workers may affect “housing standards, hospital procedures and policies governing religiously affiliated schools like Brigham Young University.”
A victory for the LGBTQ works will lead to more confusion. It will probably lead to women athletes losing all the rights they gained in Title IX because more biological men will infiltrate women’s sports where their male bodies have distinct advantages over female bodies. It would also allow transgender men and women into areas that are sex specific and could lead to dangerous situations for small children in restrooms and dressing rooms.
Since a ruling could take until June 2020, Americans will mostly wait for a long time to learn the decision. Will the justices rule for the benefits of a small minority of the people, or will their ruling be a victory for a vast majority of Americans? Will the ruling be narrow, or will it cover a wider area? As we pray for the leaders of our nation, we should add our prayers in behalf of the justices on the Supreme Court that they may make the correct decision.