In the middle of Pride month, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in support of LGBTQ rights. The ruling in the case Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia made it clear that it is illegal for employers to fire or otherwise discriminate against someone simply because they are LGBTQ.
This victory changes the landscape of LGBTQ rights across the country and is especially critical here in Texas. That’s because our state still lacks holistic nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. And just prior to the SCOTUS ruling, the Fifth Circuit federal appeals court, which presides over Texas, wrongly concluded that LGBTQ people could be fired simply because of who they are.
This anti-LGBTQ landscape has reverberated across our state — from workplaces to classrooms to housing — for far too long. It’s shamefully highlighted by the fact that Texas leads the nation with the most murders against transgender people, especially Black trans women. Just last week, we lost another Black trans woman, Merci Mack, in Dallas. We can and must do better to protect Black trans lives and the civil liberties of LGBTQ Texans.
So what does the SCOTUS decision actually mean? The court ruled that under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, no employer with 15 or more employees may fire, refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against any person because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. SCOTUS determined that “discrimination because of sex” includes gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination, since it is impossible to discriminate on those grounds without taking into account someone’s sex.
The ruling has implications far beyond employment, since sex discrimination is prohibited in a host of civil rights laws, including Title IX (applies to public schools and other federally funded programs), the Fair Housing Act (bans discrimination in housing), and the Affordable Care Act (prohibits discrimination in access to healthcare). This is important given the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to roll back LGBTQ rights and to discriminate against transgender people especially.
This ruling reaffirms that everyone has a right to be free from sex discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. No matter your gender identity or sexual orientation, you too have a right to be free from discrimination. The ruling also strongly suggests that employers cannot force people to fit within a gender binary, since things like gender-specific dress codes discriminate on the basis of sex.
The victory at the Supreme Court will help ensure that LGBTQ people are treated equally under the law, but we know that formal equality is not enough. In the months and years ahead, there will be many court cases interpreting this decision, especially as it relates to dress codes, health care, religious liberties, and sex-separated facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms. But we need not wait for any court to tell us what our rights are.
Instead, we must call on elected officials to make explicit in our laws that LGBTQ people cannot be excluded in any aspect of society by passing comprehensive nondiscrimination protections, both statewide during the next Texas legislative session and at the federal level in Congress. It is up to us to ensure that LGBTQ Texans are fully respected and accepted in their daily lives.
Join our fight in pushing lawmakers to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections during the next Texas legislative session.
And if you have experienced discrimination as an LGBTQ person in Texas, fill out our legal intake.