A Look at America: Title VII

In 2015, same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide. In 2019, the Supreme Court began to hear whether same-sex marriages, as well as transgender individuals, would be granted federal protections against job discrimination.


Photo by Mark Wilson

LGBT protesters outside of the federal Supreme Court building

Brooke O'Flaherty and Kayla Alcorcha

In 2015, the Supreme Court barred State’s “right” to prohibit same-sex marriage. Now, as of October 8, 2019, the Supreme Court is hearing cases to decide whether or not to outlaw discrimination based on sex identification or sexual orientation across the United States. Currently, 21 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia explicitly prohibit gender discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity. Two states interpret LGBT protections as falling under the civil rights act. One state prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. 26 states and three territories have no legal protections of LGBT individuals. Three cases have been used the in Supreme Court’s fight thus far: Gerald Lynn Bostock, fired from his job after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league. Donald Zarda, who after telling a woman about his sexual orientation on the job, was fired and according to his husband, fell into a deep depression, performing increasingly dangerous stunts until eventually dying in a wingsuit accident. Aimee Stephens was fired after working six years as a funeral director for beginning her transition and wanting a female work uniform.

In 1961, the Court unanimously ruled on Torcaso v. Watkins, which made it illegal for a candidate of public office to be considered ineligible for the position based on their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) on the basis that it violated the Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”). Now, it is up for debate whether or not individuals of the LGBT community should be protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on sex, race, color, national origin and religion. After all, as stated by Pamela S. Karlan, a lawyer arguing against job discrimination with Bostock and Zarda’s cases, “When an employer fires a male employee for dating men but does not fire female employees who date men, he violates Title VII.”

The spirit of the law was to not create laws that respect religious rules, including discriminating based on Christianity, like firing someone for not following religious beliefs. It’s not fair for a Muslim to fire an employee for eating pork, while it is fair for a Christian to fire a homosexual for dating the same gender. You cannot make a law aligning with a religious belief under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, yet in Supreme Court, there is still debate over whether or not it is religious freedom to fire members of the LGBT community for being honest about who they are.

It should not be up to personal choice or religious belief to be fired. It should be a human right to not be fired based on anything non-work related.