Each of these people sued their employers at a local level regarding their terminations. But these cases were recently brought to the federal level to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. In early October, the Supreme Court heard appeals from people involved in all three cases regarding how gender expression or sexual orientation affected each person’s ability to work. Each appeal is resting on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex (among other things). The decisions that the Supreme Court makes regarding each case will make history regarding LGBTQ rights in the United States. With Penn’s large LGBTQ presence on campus, this decision also has the ability to affect Penn graduates in many years to come — myself included.
Title VII does not explicitly ban discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender expression. But it has been interpreted in ways that protect LGBTQ workers. It has been read in such a way that views bias against gay and transgender men and women as a perpetuation of stereotypes about how men and women should act, proving that this discrimination is on the basis of sex.
This topic should not be up for debate. Sexual orientation and gender expression should not inhibit a person from being able to work, and employers should not have the right to discriminate against their LGBTQ employees. But this issue has become polarizing in American society. Many people are in support of federal protection for LGBTQ workers that goes beyond Title VII, while some believe that employers should have the right to fire employees if their way of life does not align with their personal or religious beliefs. Those against protecting LGBTQ workers also argue that when Title VII was passed within the Civil Rights Act, Congress did not have the LGBTQ community in mind.
One of the most common reasons that LGBTQ workers face discrimination is due to their employer’s religious beliefs. Depending on a person’s interpretation of their religion’s morals and beliefs, they may look down upon an LGBTQ employee, leading to termination of that employee. While religious freedom is something that every American citizen is entitled to under the First Amendment, I do not believe that it is something that should be used against others.
As a gay man, I want to check myself and point out the bias I have when it comes to this topic. However, the repercussions of the Supreme Court’s decision could have a direct impact on my future career, so I feel that my bias is justified. It upsets me that there are American citizens who are more than qualified and passionate about their work, but have to worry about losing their jobs due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, and it worries me that I could be put in a similar position in the future.
While we await the final decision of the Supreme Court, it is important to recognize that regardless of where you stand on this issue, every person deserves the right to find stable work that they are passionate about. We should not have to censor ourselves in order to succeed.
CONNOR BRANDON is a freshman from Skippack, Pa. studying Nursing. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.