Baton Rouge LGBTQ advocates weigh in on landmark SCOTUS decision on Title VII

Updated: Jun. 15, 2020 at 5:56 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - In what is considered a landmark decision by LGBTQ advocates, the Supreme Court ruled employers could not discriminate against employees based on sexual identity.

The court ruled 6-3 Monday, June 15 with the majority decision coming from Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch.

“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,” Gorsuch wrote.

Advocates who have fought for equal protection in the workplace for LGBTQ people celebrated the win Monday.

“I think that this is a huge milestone, it’s really important to remember that,” says Jane Mitchell, a board member with Louisiana Trans Advocates.

RELATED: Supreme Court says gay, transgender workers protected by law

Mitchell says over the years she has heard countless stories about workplace discrimination and even people being fired for their sexual identity.

“They have been fired from jobs, they’ve been told to use a name that’s not their real name, they’ve been told they can’t use the restroom for their actual gender, they’ve been told that they can’t ask customers address them as their proper gender or their proper name and they’ve been terminated for being trans or for being queer in some way,” she says.

The decision to extend protections in the workplace is a step in the right direction, Mitchell says, but it does not go far enough to protect people in everyday life.

“I think essentially the one thing trans people are asking for is to just be treated like people,” she says. “They’re not asking for anything special, they’re not asking for acceptance to be made, they’re asking for the same rights everyone else in their society has been promised.”

Christine Assaf, the VP at Progressive Social Network, an organization that fights for LGBTQ rights in Baton Rouge, has fought alongside Mitchell. Assaf says while this win is great, it opens the door for Baton Rouge Metro Council to fill in the gaps of protection and pass the Civil Rights Ordinance.

“The Civil Rights Ordinance provides for local protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, public accommodation, and employment,” Assaf says. “That ordinance remains in the hands of council members but has never been placed on the agenda for a vote.”

The ruling by SCOTUS does not offer protections like the ones Assaf is calling on the Metro Council to make. That is why she said council members need to seize the opportunity.

“Baton Rouge is the capital city and it really is part of our values so it’s been a long time coming,” she says. “We really need this.”

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