El Pasoans respond to federal LGTBQ+ ruling, consider next steps

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The U.S. Supreme Court announced a massive victory for LGTBQ+ people across the country Monday.

SCOTUS ruled the 1964 Civil Rights Act — which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex — also protects members of the LGTBQ+ community from being fired because of their sexual orientation. 

The vote on Monday morning was 6-3, with conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch siding with SCOTUS’s four liberal judges that comprised the majority. 

The ruling is significant across the country and in the Borderland. 

“This is an incredibly historic moment for LGTBQ people everywhere in the United States,” Brenda Risch, Executive Director at the Borderland Rainbow Center, tells KTSM 9 News. 

“And here in the Borderland, we have had people who’ve experienced employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation and their gender expression.”

The ruling will allow people who have been discriminated against to received justice. 

“I think it sends a message to employers that this type of discrimination is not to be tolerated. It’s not part of what is wanted in this country, and if people do carry forward with this type of discrimination they will face consequences,” said Risch. 

The Supreme Court ruled that, 

“In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

According to Justice Gorsuch, the legislators who drafted the original policy did not necessarily consider how the legislation might be applied in the future.

Justice Gorsuch wrote, “Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.”

The Supreme Court’s decision was made after several LGTBQ employees brought forth discrimination cases. 

One case was by Aimee Stephens, who worked as a funeral director for six years while presenting as a man. 

In 2012, Stephens decided to come out as a transgender woman instead of taking her life by suicide. 

Two weeks later she lost her job because of it. 

Stephens was the first transgender person to present a civil rights case to the Supreme Court and passed away last month. 

Today’s ruling marks a victory for the late Stephens as well as people in the Borderland but civil rights of LGTBQ+ and other minority populations continue to be threatened. 

Last week, the White House reversed health protections for transgender people

Under the original rule, hospitals could be mandated to perform gender-transition procedures like hysterectomies if the procedure was offered at the facility in other circumstances.

For example, if a cis a woman was to have a hysterectomy to combat endometriosis, the facility would also be required to offer the procedure to a transgender person to carry-out the anti-discrimination clauses of the Affordable Care Act. 

The policy shift permits healthcare providers and insurance companies to refuse to provide or cover transition-related care for trans-Americans if the company receives federal funding. 

According to the new ruling, the Department of Health and Human Services will be “returning to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.” 

The ruling comes at a moment when the administration is working to limit military service by trans-Americans, permit homeless shelters to filter who receives shelter by gender identity, and implement other policies that are not seen as inclusive.

The Supreme Court’s decision today is bittersweet for LGTBQ+ people in El Paso. 

“I feel happy that I can no longer be fired for being queer, the same for trans-people from being fired,” Daisy Marquez, a recent UTEP graduate, tells KTSM 9 News. 

“But I can’t help but think how this administration stripped our trans soldiers their right to healthcare. These people give their own bodies to protect the Constitution, and yet their own administration would rather they die and not get medical treatment,” Marquez said. 

Civil rights are top of mind as the nation continues to gather in protest of the murders of George Flloyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta who were all killed by police officers. 

“The most urgent steps are the steps for racial equality. True racial equality. There are still lots of people dying, we have a lot of systems to overhaul and reconsider, and we have to make good on the full effects of the Civil Rights Act,” said Risch. 

Two Black transwomen were found dead last week, which has sparked an outcry for the need to support trans people of color who are particularly vulnerable.

“We’ve made steps in the right direction, but we haven’t really carried through completely with that legislation and what it means and what it stands for,” Risch tells KTSM. 

“And that means people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds are still suffering a lot of discrimination, especially in terms of large systems like the police and law enforcement, health care, and employment.”

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