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Supreme Court ruling that protects LGBTQ+ employees hailed as historic in Brooklyn

June 16, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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After a day where thousands of people in Brooklyn, and hundreds of thousands across the country, marched in support of Black transgender lives, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision on Monday that will prohibit employers from firing LBGTQ+ employees.

In a 6-3 split, the Supreme Court ruled that employment discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The ruling was a culmination of three cases that were considered together — Altitude Express v. Zarda; Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC.

“Who you love or how you identify should have no impact on your employment,” said Attorney General James, who had filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court last summer that argued that anti-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ+ people.

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Christina Golkin (pictured) and John Coffey (pictured below) both referred to Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling as historic. The ruling said that employment discrimination covers LGBTQ+ employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Photo: Rob Abruzzese/Brooklyn Eagle

“Today’s decision is a victory for millions of individuals who now can rest assured that they will not be fired or disciplined simply for being themselves,” James continued. “While we should celebrate this victory, the struggle is not over, so we will continue to fight for equal rights in every aspect of life for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers and Americans nationwide because no one should ever be singled out or discriminated against in this country — not for their race, their ethnicity, their religion, their gender identity, their sexual orientation, or any other reason.”

Brooklyn attorney John Coffey called the announcement exciting and historic. He likened it to the court’s ruling on gay marriage in 2015.

“This is so exciting,” Coffey said. “I was so worried about this case for so many reasons, but I had faith. This is so important. It’s a fight that we’ve been fighting for a long time.

“We should be applauding the pioneers in this movement,” Coffey went on to say. “If we look back at history, some of the early important cases were employment cases like that of Dr. Renee Richards. She had to sue to have the right to pursue and play pro tennis or whether it was discrimination of her right to be employed as a tennis player.”

The ruling went 6-3 with Justice Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts siding with Justice Sonia Sotomayor and others.

Brooklyn attorney John Coffey. Photo: Rob Abruzzese/Brooklyn Eagle

“Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result,” Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion. “Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.”

Christina Golkin, the incoming treasurer of the Brooklyn Bar Association and chair of its LGBTQ Committee, explained that here in New York, local and state laws already prohibited such discrimination. However, this protects people in the nearly 30 states without similar laws and it also prevents any potential rollbacks to the laws.

“While New York City has already enacted law evincing high standards for civil rights protection regarding sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, it is incredibly encouraging to see the highest court in the land vindicate New York City’s stance on these issues and ensure that people nationwide will be protected from discrimination,” Golkin said.

“This decision has come at an important time, as the current administration has rolled back protections for the LGBT+ community, particularly for transgender individuals,” Golkin continued. “The LGBT+ community can breathe a sigh of relief right in time to celebrate Pride.”


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