As the nation celebrates Pride Month, the United State Supreme Court gave advocates for justice and equality a welcome but surprising ruling in favor of LGBTQ employment rights. In a landmark 6-3 ruling, the Court ruled on June 15 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Under Title VII, employees cannot be discriminated against because of race, religion, national origin and sex.
Writing for the court’s majority, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch stated, “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
Before this decision it was legal in more than half of the states to fire employees because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. New Jersey was not one of those states. In 1991, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination was amended to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and accommodations. In 2006, the New Jersey law was expanded to ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
“The Supreme Court finally and rightfully recognized what NJEA has known for decades: that discrimination against LGBTQ persons is wrong,” said NJEA President Marie Blistan. “NJEA proudly supported and lobbied legislators in 1991 and 2006 to expand New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity. But its defense of NJEA members facing discrimination based on LGBTQ+ status long predates those laws, including its representation of Paramus teacher John Gish in 1972, who was fired after he informed his principal that he had been elected president of the Gay Activist Alliance of New Jersey.”
“The recent Supreme Court ruling was a big step toward equality and respect, but the work is far from over,” said NJEA Vice President Sean M. Spiller. “As a nation we continue to grapple with our institutionalized hatred and biases. We need to work harder than ever to bend the long arc of history toward a more just society for all.”
“The Supreme Court’s decision bolsters the work we are doing here in New Jersey to develop an inclusive curriculum that accurately portrays the political, economic, and social contributions of LGBTQ+ persons,” said NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty. “I’m proud to be part of NJEA, an organization that stands for justice and equity for people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In recognition of June as LGBTQ Pride month and in celebration of the Supreme Court’s decision, NJEA’s officers shared these video messages: