Amid Good News, Oregon’s LGBTQ Advocates Say More Work is Ahead

The United States Supreme Court ruled on June 15 that lower courts were correct in holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which bars discrimination in the workplace on account of gender – protected workers who were treated differently because they were LGBTQ, and not only because they were male or female. This was an unexpected ruling from a Court which is generally seen as very conservative on what are called “culture” issues. In particular, it was a surprise that Chief Justice Roberts joined the majority, and that Justice Gorsuch, the first Justice appointed by Donald Trump, wrote the majority opinion.    

Before the ruling, the country was a patchwork of states with laws protecting LGBTQ citizens from workplace discrimination, like Oregon and Washington – opposed to states with no protection, like Idaho and Alaska. Now, the Civil Rights Act will be interpreted in all 50 states as protecting these individuals.    

In spite of all of this good news, Oregon’s leading human rights groups, ACLU of Oregon and Basic Rights Oregon, believe that more needs to be done – as does the governor.  

In an official statement, Gov. Kate Brown remarked, “Today’s victory comes just days after the Trump administration reversed health protections for transgender and non-binary people. The administration’s decision was a reckless and heartless move to take away protections from vulnerable people during a global pandemic. Let me be clear: These attacks on transgender and non-binary people are wrong. They have no place in our nation. Here in Oregon, regardless of the Trump administration’s actions, we will protect health care for the LGBTQ community.”  

Kelly Simon, Interim Legal Director of the ACLU of Oregon, said that the ruling is “a key precedent to affirming legal protections in education, housing, credit and health care — areas where too many LGBTQ people, particularly Black and Brown LGBTQ people, experience significant discrimination.”   

A statement issued by Nancy Haque, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon, expresses gratitude toward the Supreme Court ruling, before delving into employment barriers still present in Oregon. “Unemployment and underemployment are still major barriers for the trans community, especially trans women and the Black trans community. We want to encourage employers to look at your hiring practices and think about how you can be more inclusive of transgender and gender non-conforming Oregonians. We also encourage all LGBTQ people to be looking at anti-blackness in our community and committing to dismantling the systems that bring violence and oppression to the Black community.”   

After applauding the Supreme Court’s decision, Mikki Gillette, Major Gifts Officer at Basic Rights Oregon, echoed, “I know we’re not done. We need elect a pro-equality Congress to pass the federal Equality Act protecting LGBTQ Americans from all forms of discrimination.”     

By John M. Burt