Equal Protections for our LGBTQ MidPenners

June 16, 2020

Team MidPen:

The Supreme Court delivered an unexpected (and long overdue) but welcomed surprise for Pride Month with a ruling on a pair of cases Monday that affirmed job protections for LGBTQ workers.

The rulings applied to cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the preeminent civil rights legislation of the 20th century which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. These rulings effectively expand the definition of sex as a protected class to include gender identity and sexual orientation.

In writing for the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that:

“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.

There is simply no escaping the role intent plays here: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decision making.”

Legislation is still needed to further establish protection from discrimination, but the significance of this action cannot be overstated. This is truly a landmark ruling that provides important protections and supports efforts for diversity, equity and inclusion.

We asked a couple of MidPenners who are active supporters for LGBTQ rights to elaborate on the meaning of these rulings.

Lance Smith, Vice President & Corporate Counsel

“During this month of Pride, it is important to reflect on where we have been and where we are going. The news this week of the landmark Supreme Court decision is a long awaited and very welcome step towards equality.

While it was a big step forward for LGBTQ rights we need to remember it is just a step in a long march. When faced with the social and economic upheaval going on around us all related to COVID 19, police misuse of force, Black Lives Matter and peaceful protests, I am left with feeling that we still have a long way to go towards true and complete Civil and Human Rights for all.

If anything, this week’s Supreme Court decision has filled me with hope. Hope that despite all that has happened recently that there is a path forward to that mountain top and the Promised Land proclaimed so many years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. where we all can proclaim “Free at Last.” With hope, I will continue on this march with everyone and anyone who will walk with me.”

Gretchen Lintner, Vendor Manager – Property Management

“Monday’s Supreme Court decision affirmed under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights law that LGBTQ individuals are entitled to basic employment protections – as until yesterday, such protections did not exist in over one-half of the United States. And while over 70% of Americans thought such protections already existed – they did not. Access to work, to an income, is a basic right, and it is often easier to perform at one’s best when allowed to “bring your whole self to work”.

I am very heartened by this ruling, as in past years I have joined others in lobbying for LGBTQ rights in Springfield, IL, in Sacramento, CA and Washington, DC. My church, the Episcopal Church became a “Friend of the Court” expressing support for LGBTQ employment rights due to sustained advocacy within our church governance structure. I served as the Director of Operations for the Transgender Law Center when our legal staff secured the very first Title VII ruling protecting transgender Americans in employment, from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2012.

Might conversations around yesterday’s decision allow many more Americans to open their hearts and minds to the possibility that all people are indeed created equal? – whether they be straight, queer, binary or non-binary? There is much more to be done – to pass Federal protections in housing and healthcare access for LGBTQ Americans across our country. I hope that the next Congress will pass the Equality Act, which would provide these additional needed protections to all Americans.

As a white, middle-class, college educated, head of household – I never questioned the deep privilege that I lived with – yet I understood that I would potentially lose much when I began my transition in the mid-2000’s. Losing ingrained privilege stings – yet such loss has helped me to better comprehend the inequities routinely faced by so many others, every day of their lives.

Systemic racism, limiting access to education and economic opportunities perpetuates and is endured by many, especially black and brown queer youth and seniors. Violence continues against, and adversity persists, sustaining these hardships – we should not stop to celebrate this important milestone or any single legislative achievement until greater equity is secured for all in our society.”

Thank you, Gretchen and Lance, for helping to put this into perspective. As is clear, the fight is far from over, but we pause to acknowledge the significance of this action. Among many statements released Monday, former President Obama expressed it nicely by saying, “Today reminds us that progress might be slow. It might take decades. But no matter what things might look like today, it’s always possible. Happy Pride month, everybody.”

As always, MidPenners are encouraged to share concerns, questions or ideas on diversity, equity and inclusion with our ABIDE Council, your manager or anyone on the Human Resources team. We are a learning organization and we want to keep the information flowing and discussion going, and with an important national election coming up, please remember to vote for the change you want to see!

Best,

Terry Hill
Vice President, Human Resources
MidPen Housing