6.15 Title VII Decision by US Supreme Court

Denver, CO — One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans, released the following statements after the US Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII. Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court Justice from Colorado, issued the opinion this morning.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is a landmark victory for LGBTQ equality. While we will take time to celebrate, we must remain vigilant in ensuring that all LGBTQ people are protected in all areas of public life. This includes ending systems of racial injustice that oppress people of color economically, socially, and in the voting booth.

Here in Colorado, we have already passed protections to ensure that LGBTQ Coloradans are treated with dignity and respect, that is not the case for nearly half of LGBTQ Americans. In 29 states, LGBTQ people remain unprotected from discrimination when trying to access public services, adopt children, or secure housing. Our community deserves more than patchwork policies to protect ourselves and our families. We at One Colorado will continue to advocate for consistent and explicit protections for LGBTQ Americans in all areas of public life.”

– Daniel Ramos, Executive Director, One Colorado

“Everyone deserves the right to be their true, authentic selves in their place of work without fear of being fired simply because of who they are or who they love. I applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision affirming that job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is a form of sex discrimination prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It’s an historic day for equality.

– Phil Weiser, Colorado’s Attorney General

“We are very pleased the SCOTUS has ruled to protect LGBTQ people in their places of work, aligning with Colorado protections already in place. This decision further supports our goal to make a Colorado that works for everyone – A Colorado for All.”

 

– Kim Bimestefer, Executive Director for the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, and a member of the Governor’s Cabinet

 

“This decision reinforces strong and consistent protections for all LGBTQ individuals, which will ensure they are able to find, maintain, and thrive in work that suits their skill-sets. There should be no barriers to a Coloradan’s ability to provide for themselves and their families. Governor Polis and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) consider this a social equity issue of top importance, especially as so many workers find themselves looking for new opportunities in the reality that COVID-19 has thrust upon us.”

 

– Joseph Barela, Executive Director Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, and a member of the Governor’s Cabinet

 

One Colorado will host a Decision Day Virtual Rally at 5:30 this evening to discuss the implications of the Court’s decision and the path forward. Those who are interested can register here: https://bit.ly/TitleVIIrally

Tomorrow, June 16th, One Colorado will host a virtual town hall to take a more in-depth look at the decision and answer questions folks may have. Those who are interested can register here:  https://bit.ly/OCtownhall

Background:

On April 22, 2019, the Supreme Court agreed to hear three cases testing the reach of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act in protecting LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in employment. The cases included Altitude Express v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clay County, Georgia, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens.  The Court heard oral arguments on all three cases on October 8, 2019.

R.G. & G.R. HARRIS FUNERAL HOMES v. EEOC and AIMEE STEPHENS 

(TRANSGENDER STATUS) 

Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is, the business owner fired her, saying it would be “unacceptable” for her to appear and behave as a woman. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March 2018 that when the funeral home fired her for being transgender, it violated Title VII — the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment.  Stephens was the same capable employee before and after her transition, but she was fired because she took steps to be the woman she is. 

ALTITUDE EXPRESS INC. v. ZARDA 

(SEXUAL ORIENTATION) 

Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired from his job for being gay. A federal trial court rejected his discrimination claim, saying that the Civil Rights Act does not protect him from losing his job for being a gay man. Tragically, in October 2014, Zarda died unexpectedly, but the case continues on behalf of his family. In February 2018, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination based on sex that is prohibited under Title VII. The court recognized that when a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person is treated differently because of discomfort or disapproval that they are attracted to people of the same sex, that’s discrimination based on sex.  

BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY 

(SEXUAL ORIENTATION)

Gerald Lynn Bostock was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator when his employer learned he is gay. In May 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider an outdated 1979 decision wrongly excluding sexual orientation discrimination from coverage under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination, and denied his appeal.