A series of court cases winding their way toward the U.S. Supreme Court offer the prospect of fundamentally expanding the federal Civil Rights Act to provide definitive statutory inclusion for LGBT Americans.
This development portends a clarification that federal protections on the basis of “sex” are to be interpreted as encompassing “sexual orientation” and “gender expression.” The high court’s inevitable review and likely affirmation may not come as expeditiously as desired, but the outcome appears predictable – and by a judicial bench not tilting to the left.
While the focus of these cases regards employment protections, the ramifications of a legal victory would affect all aspects of life, liberty and love in a country that is fully prepared to accept such a ruling.
As part of the breathtaking evolutionary embrace of equal treatment at an historic accelerated pace, all sliced-and-diced demographics – whether by age, ethnicity, geography, political affiliation, or other measure – are supportive of civil equality for LGBT citizens. In addition, business and corporate support is both extraordinarily strong and nearly universal.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled 10-3 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace. The opinion, penned by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann, provided multiple rationales why Title VII – which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace – protects LGBT employees.
The court found that “sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination because sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted, making it impossible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account.”
The court joined a similar 8-3 ruling last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. These decisions also reflect rulings by dozens of lower courts across the country, and align with the position of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 2015, including for transgender Americans by prior decision.
Due to a countervailing opinion last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the issue is ripe for Supreme Court review. There is good reason and ample indication to believe the high court will be disposed to concur with the dominant federal court stance. The advancement of Title VII as a potential landmark lynchpin on gay rights is viewed as inevitable by many observers.
The question is whether such an anticipated inexorable outcome will ultimately resolve to large degree the so-called “gay agenda” – and the fundamental effect it undoubtedly will have on a modified role and revised viability for LGBT political organizations.
Will these developments eventually and essentially represent the beginning of the end for full-scale gay rights organizing and the longstanding function of LGBT political groups?
It has become commonplace for local LGBT political groups in jurisdictions with robust legal protections and integrated cultural acceptance to more narrowly define and diminish activities or become inactive and disband, often accompanied by internal assessment there is no longer sufficient purpose or rationale to remain in operation.
Some local and, especially, national LGBT organizations have transformed from exclusively focusing on issues of intrinsic and unified community concern. These groups have instead shifted emphasis to include other unrelated and often controversial issues – neither directly related to gay rights nor enjoying universal endorsement or even prevalent community support.
There will always be critical contributions on community issues and available avenues of community service these groups can well provide. Becoming an adjunct to a political party, or demanding fealty on non-LGBT political issues over which we may legitimately diverge and disagree, is not sustainable or legitimate.
Winning broadened LGBT equality will be worthy of celebration, along with continued diligence in sustaining and protecting those core achievements.
Victories on LGBT rights do not justify subsequent coercion of community concurrence on disparate political issues not legitimately a part of that legacy.