One Colorado Signs Onto Amicus Brief in Historic Title VII U. S. Supreme Court Cases

Denver, CO — Today, One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families, along with seventeen other national and statewide signatories, signed onto an amicus curiae brief urging the Supreme Court of the United States of America to confirm that discrimination because a person is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is prohibited sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

One Colorado’s Executive Director, Daniel Ramos, provided the following statement:

“More than a decade ago, Colorado passed explicit and consistent protections to ensure that LGBTQ Coloradans are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. Half of LGBTQ Americans in 30 states remain unprotected from discrimination when trying to secure a job, land a promotion, or receive equal pay for equal work. No one should live in fear of losing their job and being unable to provide for themselves and their families simply because of who they are or how they identify. Everyone has the right to a safe and productive work environment.”

An amicus curiae brief, commonly known as a “friend of the court” brief, is a petition from people or groups not party to a case, but having a strong interest in the matter, for permission to submit a brief with the intent of influencing the Court’s decision. One Colorado is encouraging the Court to side with the employees in these three cases.

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 that will be heard are Altitude Express v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clay County, Georgia, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on all three cases on October 8, 2019. A decision is expected by June 2020.

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.

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.

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.