Guest post from Nate Monson, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools.
On Monday, June 15, 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in an opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch that both sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classes under Title VII. This ruling makes LGBTQ persons equal under the law for employment protections.
Title VII or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals from employment discrimination under the characteristic of “sex.” The word sex was never clearly defined, giving question to whether it protects individuals based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
While Iowa has had legal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity since 2007, many states and municipalities did not have these specific protections making LGBTQ individuals susceptible to losing their jobs because of who they are.
In Monday’s ruling, Justice Gorsuch himself wrote, “Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
This ruling is important not just for the adults it protects, but because there are other federal laws where “sex” is not defined and where LGBTQ protections are needed. Title IX protects students from discrimination in sports, school facilities, and in cases with sexual assault. Under the Obama Administration, guidance was given to schools that stated that sex protected LGBTQ youth. The Trump Administration rescinded that guidance with the support of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos.
Many of the 15 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed this legislative session focused on eliminating protections for gender identity in the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Most of these mean-spirited bills and intentions are toothless with this US Supreme Court ruling, and it is my hope that extremist far-right legislators finally understand that LGBTQ equality is not up for debate.
This is a historic moment for LGBTQ persons. This Pride Month; let’s celebrate like we have never celebrated before. Beyond that, we will continue the fight for LGBTQ equality.
by Nate Monson
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