In the past decade, there has been tremendous progress regarding LGBTQA+ issues in America, from the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage to a growing awareness and understanding of transgender people.
However, not every development moves our society in that same direction, and a pending Supreme Court decision may mark a significant setback for LGBTQA+ rights.
If you live in Wisconsin you can be fired for coming out as being transgender. In Illinois, the law states that being transgender is protected under the category of sex-based discrimination, but in Wisconsin sex-based discrimination does not include those who are transgender.
On October 8th, a case was read in front of the Supreme Court (R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC) in which Aimee Stephens came out to her employer of six years that she was going to live and identify as a woman, and was subsequently fired.
David Cole, Aimee Stephens’s lawyer, testified that her case asks whether when someone is fired because they’re transgender or because they fail to conform to sex-based stereotypes, is that because of sex.
Cole argued that because Stephens would have to dress in stereotypically male attire to be able to continue working at the funeral home, that would impose significant harm to her because she identifies as female and not male.
The current law in the US does not include transgender persons under the sex-based discrimination law, thus it is up to the states to decide if it does. Currently, in 30 states, you can be fired for being transgender and you can also be denied housing and other services.
When SCOTUS releases its decision this summer, it will decide whether sex-based discrimination will cover transgender people. In Illinois, where transgender people have protections, whatever the Supreme Court rules won’t affect them.
However, those who live and work in states that don’t have these protections, like Wisconsin, will have to cause to worry or to celebrate. Whatever the ruling is, it will affect LGBTQA+ people for generations to come.