A seemingly divided Supreme Court struggled Tuesday over whether a landmark civil rights law protects LGBT people from discrimination in employment. AP’S Supreme Court Reporter Mark Sherman explains. (Oct. 8)
There is a lot on the line this year. The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up pivotal issues around access to abortion and LGBTQ rights. The Court will either move our society forward or move it backward by restricting abortion access and permitting discrimination against transgender persons.
Many were surprised the Court agreed to take on June Medical Services v. Gee. The case involves a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges. Only three years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the same requirement in Texas in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In Hellerstedt, the Court held that this requirement didn’t serve to protect women’s health, and, in fact, placed a “substantial burden” on women’s right to access abortion care.
Why did the Court include the Louisiana case among the limited number of cases it will review this term so soon after its Hellerstedt decision? A couple of possibilities. Perhaps the justices want to reaffirm their ruling in Hellerstedt. On the other hand, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote in Hellerstedt, retired and was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a very conservative Trump appointee. Time will reveal the Court’s actual motivation.
A decision to validate state laws requiring admitting privileges would put many – or most — abortion providers out of business. It is extremely rare for complications during abortion care to necessitate hospitalization. For that reason, physicians rarely have the number of hospital admissions required to warrant admitting privileges.
Profit above planet: We got 40+ letters shaming LGE in support of Bernheim. Read them all
For today, let’s focus on Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the first transgender rights case to be considered by the Supreme Court. Aimee Stephens presented as a man for most of her employment as a funeral home director with the Harris company. Not long after Stephens came out as a trans woman and informed her employer about her transition to female, Stephens was fired.
The issue is a fundamental one: Can an employee be fired (or otherwise discriminated against) because they are transgender? Or does the law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender and religion also prohibit discrimination based on an employee’s status as transgender?Support local journalism
We have been accustomed to relying on the federal courts to curtail unconstitutional laws. But that strategy is becoming increasingly challenging as President Donald Trump appoints more extreme conservatives to lifetime positions on the federal courts.
He has had many vacancies to fill, thanks to Sen. Mitch McConnell refusing to even consider many of President Barack Obama’s nominees. So many vacancies, in fact, that Trump has appointed almost 25% of all federal appellate judges. The philosophical bent that earned these new judges the position in the first place is jeopardizing the civil rights of many in our country.
More opinion: You might see more red states (and Trump reelected) if Democrats don’t change
The on-the-ground reality is clear. The country is changing, and there is overwhelming support for LGBTQ protections. By a margin of 61% to 30%, respondents in a poll conducted by the Marquette Law School favor a Supreme Court decision holding “that laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex also apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation of gay, lesbian, or transgender individuals.”
And more than 200 corporations, including many of America’s best-known companies, have signed a brief to the Court advocating the same result.
In Kentucky, views are changing as well. Kentucky has 14 municipalities that have enacted Fairness Ordinances, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Those locales span the state and include rural towns like Henderson and Vicco as well as Louisville, Lexington and Frankfort. (These laws would not be affected by any Supreme Court decision in the Harris Funeral Homes case.)
Statewide, however, Kentucky has not caught up with public sentiment. According to an AP analysis, 28 states have not adopted laws that would prohibit workplace discrimination targeting LGBTQ employees. Kentucky is one of those states. This, of course, makes the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in the Harris Funeral Homes case extremely significant for citizens of the commonwealth.
This is a defining moment for civil rights across the country and here in Kentucky. We need our elected leaders to step up because every person — no matter their gender identity, sex or sexual orientation — deserves equal opportunities under the law.
Depending on the Supreme Court’s decision, notes an ACLU attorney, we could “return to a world where employers can fire anyone — straight or (not), transgender or not — for not being the ‘right kind’ of woman or man.”
On the heels of the Nov. 5 election, I want to know where our governor stands. The country and constituents across the commonwealth are watching. Now is the time to lead, Gov.-elect Andy Beshear. Will you be on the right side of history?
Kim Greene is a Louisville attorney and a member of the board of Planned Parenthood of IN KY, Inc.