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Yep, Obama is responsible for this week's LGBTQ Supreme Court victory
Don't trust Neil Gorsuch or John Roberts. Stay focused on the 2020 election.
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In a piece in Gen, I write about how, ultimately, President Obama — and the work at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during his administration — paved the way for the massive and stunning Supreme Court win on LGBTQ equality, in which the court ruled that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are protected from employment discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The deliciousness of the ruling is that Justice Neil Gorsuch — the perhaps-until-yesterday darling of the religious extremists and a man appointed by Donald Trump — wrote the majority decision, and Chief Justice John Roberts joined him and the four liberals to slam down a 6-3 ruling.
This ruling will have far-reaching implications because it deemed that the word “sex” — a protected class under Title VII — is to be interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Legal scholars believe first and foremost it will undercut Trump’s vicious rollbacks of rights for transgender people specifically.
And its broad implications for dozens of statutes that prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, from housing to education, are clear, and likely will lead to many more wins for gay and transgender people.
“We must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” Gorsuch wrote in words that are likely to be quoted in many cases about many areas. “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.”
But as I write in the piece in Gen, Gorsuch is actually no friend to LGBTQ rights and is a “religious liberty” crusader who will likely try to limit these very rights with odious exceptions allowing discrimination based on religious beliefs. I’ve written a lot about him in the past. And Roberts, who wrote a nasty dissent in the marriage equality ruling in 2015, is no one we can trust, no matter that in this moment it seemed like he didn’t want to be to the right of Gorsuch.
It was actually Obama’s EEOC that first ruled that gay and transgender people are protected under Title VII (going back to the historic Macy decision in 2012 regarding trans protections and then 2015 regarding sexual orientation), due the great work of Chai Feldblum, an openly lesbian former Georgetown University law professor whom Obama appointed (the first openly gay person on the EEOC). Roberts and Gorsuch would eventually take up a legal interpretation that was incubated in Obama’s administration — and only because of his very forward EEOC — something that will surely drive extremist religious conservatives nuts when they figure it out. Again, check out the piece in Gen where I go through the details.
Already, the radical right is outraged and demoralized. And Trump seems to be sulking — responding that we “will have to live with the decision” — not knowing which way to go as he courts evangelicals but also hilariously has tried to make it seem like he’s pro-LGBTQ.
Bottom line: A Democratic president brought us this win, and we now need a Democratic president who will continue the kind of progress we’ve seen at the EEOC under Obama. In the meantime, it’s great to see the religious extremists so depressed. Let’s keep that going through the election.
A good friend of my SiriusXM radio show, Eric Boehlert, recently launched a hard-hitting newsletter, Press Run, which offers fearless media commentary in the age of Trump. He's offering a special discount on subscriptions for readers of this newsletter. Check is out here. It is a must-read.