Everyday life for LGBTQ Americans has recently entered the spotlight again, this time in the Supreme Court.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Discrimination against sexual orientation was brought to the nation’s attention on Oct. 8.
While there are 21 states that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of both sexual orientation and gender identity, not all share the same legislation.
In the majority of legal protections, gender identity isn’t as widely protected as sexual orientation. In Wisconsin, workers are only safeguarded under sexual orientation, meaning they cannot be fired for being gay, but they can be fired for identifying as transgender.
The nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 gave many the sense that equality had been achieved, however, those same crowds have found themselves second-guessing that notion.
Ohio is a state without state protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, hate crimes, public accommodations, education, transgender healthcare or anti-conversion therapy, but the city of Columbus banned conversion therapy in 2017.
Cities such as Columbus have been prohibiting discrimination independently for years, which means a state may not have federal protections but will have laws that vary based on local and state law.
Venus Rittenberg, a freshman studying music production, said the Supreme Court ruling could complicate matters in the future.
“While my personal life will remain relatively unchanged for the most part, this ruling could make it harder for me to get and keep a job or adopt a child if I wanted to in the future,” Rittenberg said.
The ruling of this case could be monumental for LGBTQ+ rights of workers nationally and locally. The arguments in favor of increasing the range of protections to include LGBTQ+ workers make the case that discrimination by sexual orientation and gender identity work in tandem with sex discrimination.
“When an employer fires a male employee for dating men but does not fire female employees who date men, [they] violate Title VII,” Pamela Karlan, a lawyer who represented a gay couple who were fired for their orientation, said in a New York Times article.
Karlan was also the attorney for two men who had been fired for being gay. She further explained that they wouldn’t have been fired if they had been women, but because they were men who dated men, they were removed from their positions.
Justice Elena Kagan presented what she called the law’s, “extremely simple test,” and ultimately stated that had the gay men been a different sex, they wouldn’t have been fired.
The second case presented to the Supreme Court was from Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman from Michigan who was fired in 2013 from her job at a funeral home. Her termination came two weeks following an interaction with her boss where she disclosed that she identified as female. The termination resulted in her and her wife losing health insurance.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Stephens, stating she had been wrongfully terminated and the federal sex discrimination laws include protections for transgender people. Now, Harris Funeral Homes, her former employer, is appealing the ruling and while the government had previously sided with Stephens, that is no longer the case.
“This impacts job availability, hiring, income, everyday life for LGBT people,” Talia Potter, a junior studying psychology, said. “When employers look at your previous jobs, they’ll see you were fired and they will ask why, they will know your sexual orientation without you telling them.
Potter, a student staff member at the Ohio University LGBT Center, recognizes the uproar the ruling could cause with not just LGBT-identifying individuals, but allies as well.
“If this rules against the LGBT community, people will be upset,” Potter said. “Not only will LGBT people be upset, their allies will be, people of color will be upset. There will be protests, maybe even on this campus.”
While the ruling won’t be made until the summer of 2020, the case has the support of many and opposition on the edge of their seats. Regardless of the ruling, one thing will be true, day-to-day life will be altered for the LGBTQ+ society and those close to them.
Correction: A previous version of this report misspelled Venus Rittenberg’s name. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.