Throughout our nation’s history, there has been a longstanding fight for equal rights—and this includes the rights of the LGBTQ community. Organized labor has played an instrumental role in all of these fights for equality, and the battle faced by the LGBTQ community is no exception. This was evident once again this year in June, when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, holding in a 6-3 vote that firing someone for being LGBTQ is a violation of the sex discrimination prohibition of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. For more information on this landmark ruling, check out the IAM’s previously-published article “Machinists Applaud Supreme Court LGBTQ Workplace Right Ruling.”
Legal titans fighting for gender equality like former Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for equality as applied to LGBTQ Americans. She decided several key cases in favor of equal rights; not just in this summer’s Bostock decision, but also with her part in the historic decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Ginsburg believed in equality in all facets, many times showing public support in her ruling in several other cases impacting LGBTQ people.
Prior to the Bostock decision in June, the only protections LGTBQ American’s had in the workplace came from their union membership card and their collective bargaining agreement. Still today, union representation offers the greatest level of protection to these workers.
While protections for LGBTQ Americans have hit historically-high levels, and much progress has been made socially and legally—with more rainbow flags flying high and people being able to marry the people they love, and an open LGBTQ public figure running for the highest federal office—there are still ongoing threats designed to undo or reduce the protections for LGBTQ Americans. The Trump administration had urged the Supreme Court to rule against gay and transgender workers, and it has barred most transgender people from serving in the military. The Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation that undid protections for transgender patients from discrimination by doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies.
Because there is still much to accomplish, in celebrating LGBTQ History Month, it is important now to draw strength from how far LGBTQ rights have come and look forward to ways to continue to advance equal rights for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. One way to help is to support advocacy organizations like Pride at Work.
Pride at Work works in collaboration with the labor movement to ensure LGBTQ rights and fight social injustice. They are a nonprofit organization that represents LGBTQ union members and their allies. They are officially recognized constituency group of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations) who seeks full equality for LGBTQ Workers in the workplace. Click here support or to join one of Pride AT Work’s many chapters throughout the US.