ATLANTA — In a landmark decision Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unlawful to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals in the workplace.
The case includes several separate cases, one with Georgia roots.
Gerald Bostock, a gay Atlanta man, joined other plaintiffs in the case. Bostock claimed he was fired from his job as coordinator of Clayton County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate program.
In the 6-3 ruling, the court ruled discrimination against LGBTQ employees is prohibited under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“When it comes to employment the question must always be whether someone can do the job,” Sean Young, legal director of ACLU Georgia, said. “Today’s decision expands the American promise of liberty and justice for all to include LGBTQ people throughout our nation just as we protect workers regardless of their race, nation of origin or their religion.”
The two other plaintiffs — New York skydiving instructor Donald Zarda and Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman from Michigan — have died.
Bostock said he has been looking forward to this decision for a long time.
In 2013, Bostock lost his job after joining a gay recreational softball league.
“My life changed. It put me on this path of seven years,” he said during a press conference. “I lost a dream job that I had, I lost my income and I lost my medical insurance after a time I was recovering from prostate cancer.”
Bostock appealed a ruling against him by federal appeals court in Atlanta.
“I learned early on from this that it’s always been about so much more,” he said. “It’s such a bigger issue than my own personal experiences.”
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, said while the LGBTQ community and its allies celebrate the “decisive” ruling as a large leap forward for gay and transgender rights, there is still work to be done on both a federal and state level.
“There is a long way to go towards making sure that members of the LGBT community are protected against discrimination in all of its forms – not just employment but in housing, in public accommodations and access to credit and access to education,” he said.
Graham said Georgia is one of only three states that — even with the federal ruling — doesn’t have “explicit employment protections” for any group of people.
Nikema Williams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said the ruling was a “long sought victory for LGBTQ Americans” and with the help of Bostock, LGBTQ individuals “no longer need to fear for their jobs simply for being who they are.”
“As we celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride this month, and observe millions marching in the streets calling for true justice for all, we must remember that today’s victory is the result of hard work by the activists and protesters, many of whom were LGBTQ people of color, who marched before us,” she said in a statement. “The work ahead of us is still vast — but today’s decision affirms that every person deserves equal rights and equal treatment under the law, and we will fight until we make that true.”
Both Graham and Bostock noted the timing of the ruling comes as the nation is gripped in widespread unrest over police brutality.
“At a time with so much uncertainty and so much civil unrest, I hope people see this as a step in the right direction for our country,” Bostock said. “There is absolutely no room in this world for discrimination or racism. I hope this celebration we’re all sharing in today it sheds a little bit of light in these dark days we’ve had across this country in the past couple of weeks.”