In June 2015, the United States Supreme Court released its landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which gave same-sex couples the right to marry, a liberty granted only to heterosexual couples for centuries. For a brief moment in time, it seemed like LGBTQ rights were finally being respected, and we were making genuine steps toward equality.
But of course, that’s hardly the case.
On Oct. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court began reviewing three separate cases to determine whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex.
Title VII was originally created to ban discrimination based on race, sex, religion and national origin, but a number of conservative politicians, including President Donald Trump’s administration, have argued that “sex” refers exclusively to biological sex and not gender identity or sexual orientation, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“The law says there can’t be discrimination on the basis of sex,” said Leora Eisenstadt, an assistant professor of legal studies. “You can’t fire a man for dating, then you can’t fire a woman dating. So, if a woman can date a man and can’t be fired, then so could a man who dates another man.”
The Supreme Court should recognize that Title VII must be amended to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity because of the negative impact that the opposite decision could have on LGBTQ individuals.
This lack of revision can lead to unemployment and a lack of income, especially in the 28 states that have no laws prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, the Los Angeles Times reported.
More than half of all LGBTQ individuals live in states where they can be fired because of their identity, USA Today reported. That number could grow based on this case.
“It’s dangerous to put people in a place where they have to choose between living authentically and also having financial stability,” said Sophie Kirshner, a sophomore political science major and a member of the LGTBQ community.
This loss of wages is coupled with everything from housing to healthcare when LGBTQ people on the basis of their identity, Vox reported.
LGBTQ youth already have a 120 percent higher risk of becoming homeless than cisgender, heterosexual individuals, the Human Rights Campaign reported, and refusing to protect their rights could raise that disproportionate representation significantly.
And this is all based on a clause written 50 years ago. Since sex, based on biological anatomy, differs from socially constructed gender, transgender individuals in the process of transitioning have been unfairly terminated by transphobic employers, like Aimee Stephens, who was fired for expressing her gender identity in the workplace in 2013, USA Today reported.
“A lot of the conservative judges would have to engage in a lot of intellectual dishonesty to come out with an outcome against the LGBTQ community,” said Ali Szemanski, a legal fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
We’ve come a long way when it comes to LGBTQ rights in this country, but there’s plenty more work to be done. The Supreme Court has the opportunity to correct this wrong by acknowledging how unfair the law’s current interpretation is.
The rights of LGBTQ people does not end with being able to marry legally, it also includes the right to work without prosecution and threat of unemployment. They do not have to settle for the bare-minimum and lack of effort from employers, in order to survive anywhere in America.