Discrimination by Employers

Americans Are Increasingly Supporting LGBTQ Rights. Will The Supreme Court?

  Rob Boston

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear a trio of important cases dealing with LGBTQ rights. The day of the argument, AU President and CEO Rachel Laser will be among dozens of speakers advocating for LGBTQ rights outside the court.

Two of the cases, which will be argued jointly, were brought respectively by Donald Zarda and Gerald Bostock, two men who were fired from their jobs because they’re gay. The third case focuses on Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman in Michigan who was fired from her job at a funeral home because the owner said  her dressing as a woman conflicted with his religious beliefs.

Although these are not church-state cases – the high court is limiting itself to deciding whether a federal 1964 law that bans employment discrimination on the basis of sex includes LGBTQ people – the issue of religion is percolating in the background. Religiously based opposition to LGBTQ rights fuels much of the discrimination members of that community face.

In advance of the arguments, Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has pulled together some interesting data about how Americans view LGBTQ rights. The good news is that support for these rights is on the upswing: Sixty-nine percent say they favor laws that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.

PRRI found some interesting data about how this breaks down by religion. Unitarian Universalists show the highest degree of support for LGBTQ rights, at 90 percent. Jews are second, coming in at 80 percent, followed by the religiously unaffiliated at 78 percent. Hispanic Catholics hit 72 percent and white Catholics come in at 71 percent. They’re followed by white mainline Protestants at 71 percent, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 70 percent.

Some of the lowest support came, not surprisingly, from white evangelical Protestants, but even there we see a majority of 54 percent backing protections.

PRRI polled Americans specifically about their views on transgender rights in June. The firm found growing support there as well.  Sixty-two percent of Americans say they have become more supportive of transgender rights than they were five years ago. (Twenty-five percent are less supportive.)

When it comes to religion, PRRI reported, “Majorities of every major religious group report becoming more supportive of transgender rights over the last five years. Even among white evangelical Protestants, slightly more than half (52%) report becoming more supportive of transgender rights over the last five years.”

The shift in public opinion on issues such as LGBTQ rights, marriage equality and trans rights since the 1990s has been nothing short of seismic. The Supreme Court should follow the public’s lead and come down on the right side of history in these new cases by solidifying critical non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. And regardless of the outcome, it’s also imperative that Congress pass the Equality Act to address the significant gaps in federal civil rights laws and improve protections for everyone.

In order for America to live up to its promise of liberty, equality and inclusion, we must ensure religious freedom continues to be a shield to protect, rather than a sword to harm others.

Photo: Aimee Stephens (r) with her spouse Donna. Photo courtesy ACLU.


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