In a despicable example of support for bigotry, 16 states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court decision that protects transgender employees from workplace discrimination.
Alabama is one of those states. Steve Marshall, the Alabama attorney general, is among the 13 attorneys general who have joined this reprehensible effort that’s nothing more than Republican Party phobia over the changing demographics — in race, in immigration, in sexual orientation — of our nation.
And the timing couldn’t be more prescient for the Alabama GOP, which this week released its first party platform. Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan called it the “historic adoption” of Alabama Republicans’ governing beliefs. Two of those codified beliefs are worth mentioning here:
“We believe in equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for all, without regard to race, creed, age, sex or national origin.”
“We believe every human being is endowed by our Creator with inherent rights to life, liberty and property.”
Boiled down, the state GOP platform supports equal rights for all — “without regard to race, creed, age, sex or national origin” — but doesn’t jive with national Republican efforts to prevent LGBTQ Americans from having the same workplace rights as others do. That’s the despicable part.
Granted, Marshall and the other attorneys general seeking a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court aren’t couching their legal argument in those terms. They’re smarter than that. Instead, they’re claiming the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals erred in its interpretation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits sex discrimination. Put bluntly, the attorneys general claim Congress did not intend to protect LGBTQ rights with that landmark 1964 law — a convenient cover for a blatant attempt to weaken anti-discrimination efforts for this American minority.
The 6th Circuit’s opinion, the brief says, “erases all common, ordinary understandings of the term ‘sex’ in Title VII and expands it to include ‘gender identity’ and ‘transgender’ status. In doing so, the lower court rewrites Title VII in a way never intended or implemented by Congress in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
In other words, they’re arguing over the use of the word “sex.”
Here’s why this matters.
The United States has no federal law that protects workplace discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The case in Detroit that began this saga involved a funeral home that fired its director after she told the funeral home’s owner that she was transgender. No law protected her.
Only 20 states, along with Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, have laws specifically forbidding this type of workplace discrimination. None of those states are in the South, which is where an overwhelming majority of the states and attorneys general seeking a Supreme Court reversal are from.
Even if Congress in 1964 did not specifically intend to include LGBTQ rights in the Civil Rights Act, there’s only one reason why these states and their counsel are asking justices to reverse this decision. It’s because they have no interest in protecting the workplace rights LGBTQ Americans deserve.