- Title: U.S. Supreme Court divided over gay, transgender employment protection
- Date: 8th October 2019
- Summary: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (OCTOBER 8, 2019) (REUTERS) WIDE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT AND A MAN HOLDING AN AMERICAN FLAG DEMONSTRATORS CHANTING" TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN" T-SHIRT SAYING TRANSWOMEN ARE MEN DEMONSTRATORS CHANTING "TRANS LIVES MATTER" VARIOUS OF DEMONSTRATORS AND PEOPLE HOLDING SIGNS LEAD PLAINTIFF AIMEE STEPHENS ARRIVING TO STAKEOUT IN A WHEEL CHAIR VARIOUS OF STEPHENS DAVID COLE TALKING TO MEDIA (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID COLE, NATIONAL LEGAL DIRECTOR OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION (ACLU) SAYING" "And all we are asking the court to do is to recognize that transgender people have the same rights under our civil rights laws as everybody else. Not to be discriminated against because of their sex." AIMEE STEPHENS RISING FROM WHEELCHAIR TO SPEAK TO REPORTERS (SOUNDBITE) (English) AIMEE STEPHENS, PLAINTIFF, SAYING: "I would like to say thank you for all the support that I'm getting. I appreciate each and every one of you. I'm glad to have been able to. Bring this before the courts. And. What happened to me was her own. And hopefully we can fix and correct it. From this point on thank you. REAR VIEW OF ACTRESS LAVERNE COX SPEAKING TO MEDIA (SOUNDBITE) (English) LAVERNE COX, ACTRESS SAYING: "I hope no matter what our justices just decide that Americans know that it should not be OK to discriminate against someone simply for being who they are. If we do not win this case, then then the people, then our legislature needs to make it clear that discrimination gets anyone because of who they are should not be the way that we live our lives to the United States of America. Thank you so much to Amy Stephens to Mr. Bostock and the family, these are her family, for their courage. It is every day people who have had the courage to stand up who can make a difference." THOMAS ROST OWNER OF HARRIS FUNERAL HOME AND HIS WIFE NANCY ROST AND ATTORNEYS WALKING FROM SUPREME COURT PROCEEDINGS (SOUNDBITE) (English) AIMEE STEPHENS, LEAD PLAINTIFF SAYING: "We're just trying to make it right, the wrong that was done to us...Not only just to me but, a lot of the people you see standing here today. (REPORTER QUESTION: I saw when you were rolling down, that you know, you could see the crowd chanting your name what was that like?) "Very positive very uplifting, to know that all these people were behind me." PHOTOGRAPHERS (SOUNDBITE) (English) THOMAS ROST, OWNER OF HARRIS FUNERAL HOME NAMED IN LAWSUIT SAYING: "Our company has a professional code of conduct and sex specific dress code to ensure that families can focus on processing their grief. In 2007, we hired a male funeral director who agreed to follow those policies. Nearly six years later the employee gave me a letter expressing an intent to violate the dress code by dressing and presenting as a woman when working with grieving families." WIDE OF ROST SPEAKING TO MEDIA (SOUNDBITE) (English) THOMAS ROST, OWNER OF HARRIS FUNERAL HOME NAMED IN LAWSUIT SAYING: "Even though I acted in accord with federal law in creating and applying my dress code, the government sued us. And although the government has now changed course and agrees that we didn't violate the law, the ACLU continues its efforts to punish us. The ACLU is trying to use my grandfather's family business as a pawn to achieve a larger political goal that it has been unable to achieve in Congress where this issue belongs." WIDE OF CAMERAS (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHN BURSCH, ATTORNEY FOR ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDO, REPRESENTING THOMAS AND NANCY ROST SAYING: "Our federal law prohibiting discrimination because of sex, Title VII is a promise that women will not be treated worse than men and men will not be treated worse than women. The laws tax does not mean that employers must treat biologic biological men as women. The ACLU's attempt to redefine sex creates unfair situations for women and girls and undermines nearly 50 years of advances for women." WIDE OF SCENE OUTSIDE THE SUPREME COURT
- Embargoed: 22nd October 2019 18:46
- Keywords: Supreme Court Gay transgender rights Aimee Stephens Thomas Rost
- Location: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- City: WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Crime/Law/Justice,Judicial Process/Court Cases/Court Decisions
- Reuters ID: LVA001B08NMF7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday (October 8) appeared divided over whether a landmark decades-old federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace protects gay and lesbian employees as they heard arguments in one of the biggest cases of their current term.
The second of two oral arguments, focusing on whether transgender workers are protected under the same law.
The court's 5-4 conservative majority includes two justices - Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh - appointed by President Donald Trump, whose administration has argued that Title VII does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBT rights activists held a demonstration near the courthouse as the arguments took place. The arguments were held on the second day of the court's new nine-month term.
The legal fight focuses on the definition of "sex" in Title VII. The plaintiffs, along with civil rights groups and many large companies, have argued that discriminating against gay and transgender workers is inherently based on their sex and consequently is illegal.
A couple of hundred demonstrators advocating for LGBT rights gathered a short distance from the white marble courthouse on an overcast day in the U.S. capital. They chanted for equal rights and held signs including ones that read, "Do fire Trump. Don't fire LGBTQ workers," "Discrimination is bad for business" and "LGBT Americans power our economy."
A small group of demonstrators opposing gay and transgender rights also was present holding signs including two that read, "Fear God" and "Sin and shame, not pride."
A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would give gay and transgender workers greater protections, especially in the 28 U.S. states that do not already have comprehensive measures against employment discrimination. A ruling against the plaintiffs would mean gay and transgender people in those states would have few options to challenge workplace discrimination.
The court heard two cases about gay people who have said they were fired due to their sexual orientation. One involves a Detroit funeral home's bid to reverse a lower court ruling that it violated Title VII by firing a transgender funeral director named Aimee Stephens after Stephens revealed plans to transition from male to female. Another case involves a former county child welfare services coordinator from Georgia named Gerald Bostock. The last case, a New York skydiving instructor named Donald Zarda, who died after the case began and the matter is being pursued by his estate.
Liberal justices signaled sympathy toward arguments that gay workers are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin and religion.
Some conservative justices expressed reservations toward extending protection to gay employees. However, one of them, Justice Neil Gorsuch, asked questions of both sides indicating potential sympathy for the workers. When analyzing whether a person was fired on the basis of sexual orientation, Gorsuch said sex seemed to be a "contributing cause."
Rulings in the cases are due by the end of June.
(Production: Kevin Fogarty, Gershon Peaks, Kia Johnson)
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