WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) are leading 151 colleagues in an amicus brief supporting equal rights for LGBTQ employees, in three cases where high-performing employees were fired once their bosses discovered their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Supreme Court will hear three cases—Zarda v. Altitude Express Inc., Bostock v. Clayton County, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC & Aimee Stephens—about the interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as it relates to sex discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Court’s decisions in these cases will have a nationwide impact, deciding whether federal law allows employers to take action against LGBTQ employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Merkley and Cicilline were joined on the friend-of-the-court brief by 38 Senate and 113 House colleagues.
“No one deserves to have the door of opportunity slammed on them simply because of who they are or whom they love,” Merkley said. “Discrimination has no place in our nation, and these employment discrimination cases are another step in the fight for a more just and more equal America.”
“No American should be forced to live in fear of discrimination in the workplace or losing their job entirely simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Cicilline said. “Yet in a majority of states in our country, people can still be fired from their jobs, or kicked out of their apartments just for being who they are. The Court should take advantage of this important opportunity to bring the LGBTQ community one step closer to full equality by banning this discrimination nationwide.”
Merkley and Cicilline introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Equality Act, legislation authored by Merkley that would codify explicit federal civil rights protections for LGBTQ Americans in public accommodations, employment, housing and more. The House successfully passed the legislation in May, and Merkley is pushing the Senate to take up the bill.
As Speaker of the Oregon House, Merkley led the 2007 push to pass the Oregon Equality Act, which guarantees non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Oregonians.
In Bostock v. Clayton County, a colleague disparaged Gerald Lynn Bostock’s sexual orientation in front of his supervisor, mocking Mr. Bostock’s participation in a gay softball league. A month later, Mr. Bostock—a well-regarded employee for 10 years—was fired. Similarly, in Altitude Express v. Zarda, Donald Zarda, an openly gay man, worked as a skydiving instructor at Altitude Express and was fired because of his sexual orientation. In the Stephens case, Aimee Stephens was fired when she told her employer that she would live openly as a transgender woman, despite her excellent performance record.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next term.
In the amicus brief, signers support the claims of discrimination, and urge the Supreme Court to clarify the law to reflect what is already widely recognized: that LGBTQ Americans are protected against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity under Title VII because sexual orientation and gender identity are inherently an aspect of a person’s “sex.”
In addition to Merkley and Cicilline, there were 113 House signers and 38 Senate signers, including Senators Schumer (D-NY), Feinstein (D-CA), Murray (D-WA), Baldwin (D-WI), Booker (D-NJ), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Shaheen (D-NH), Sinema (D-AZ), Smith (D-MN), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR).
A full version of the brief is available HERE.