So much has happened this year that it is easy to overlook major news stories. But a United States Supreme Court ruling from mid-June should not be overlooked. In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that LGBTQ employees are protected against employment discrimination by the 1964 Civil Rights Act – specially the provision banning discrimination based on sex.
Ohio already bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, but we are among approximately half the states that offer any protections to the LGBTQ community. Moreover, the SCOTUS ruling also protects transgender individuals, a group that faces high amounts of discrimination and has been either left out of specific legal protections or not explicitly mentioned.
Like the same-sex marriage ruling in 2015, the Court’s decision is a major step forward for the cause of LGBTQ civil rights in America.
What Congress Did or Didn’t Intend
One question that the Supreme Court must constantly wrestle with when examining any given law is what the congress that passed the law intended to include/exclude or achieve. Some have argued that the congress which passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 almost certainly did not intend to include the LGBTQ community when banning discrimination based on sex. Based on historical evidence, that conclusion is likely true.
But should that stop us from including the LGBTQ community now? Consider the following example as argument for updating values. The Declaration of Independence states unequivocally: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” But anyone who knows even a tiny amount of American history understands that this didn’t apply to black people. Many of the very founding fathers who wrote the document owned slaves.
Granted, the Declaration of Independence isn’t legislation. But would any reasonable person argue that we should interpret that famous sentence today as the founding fathers did? The answer is a resounding no.
Not much may change in Ohio as a result of the SCOTUS decision – because we have already adopted a reasonably progressive and inclusive stance on LGBTQ rights. But the ruling will strengthen protections nationwide and will hopefully make it easier for LGBTQ employees everywhere to speak up and assert their rights in the face of employment discrimination.