The case is due to be heard from Tuesday (8 October).
Next week, the Supreme Court will begin hearing evidence in a case that could have massive legal ramifications for the LGBTQ community in America. The court will hear three cases where people were fired because of their LGBTQ identity.
One of those cases is Donald Zarda, a former skydiving instructor, who was fired from Altitude Express after a customer discovered his sexual orientation and complained about it.
Zarda sadly died in 2014 in a BASE diving accident, however, his partner, William Moore will represent his estate in the case. Writing a piece for USA Today, Moore said: “Don did not live long enough to see his day in court. Now, years later, his case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
“Along with another case of a man who was fired for being gay in Georgia, Don’s case will determine whether or not it is legal for employers in the United States to terminate an employee on the simple basis of being LGBTQ.”
He continued, writing: “It’s infuriating and painful that we are still having this debate in 2019, yet here we are. And the stakes could not be higher.
“The case revolves around Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of ‘race, color, religion, sex and national origin.’
“Altitude Express — and the Trump administration, which has submitted a brief to the Supreme Court — is arguing that firing Don because of his sexual orientation wasn’t related to his sex and therefore should be legal under Title VII.
“This is, of course, absurd. It was Don’s sex that was the very basis of Altitude Express’ homophobia and cruelty. It was not the mere fact that he loved a man that led to his firing; it was the fact that he was a man who loved another man. If he had been a woman who loved a man, he would not have been fired.”
He added: “LGBTQ people in America have been fighting for our rights my entire life. Each step of the way, opponents of equality have pushed back on our struggle to be respected and treated with dignity.
“Don’s case is a continuation of that struggle. Too many of my friends still have to live in fear in their workplace, hiding who they are from their colleagues and superiors, changing their pronouns at work, their livelihood dependent on how well they wear masks that they should have been able to discard years ago.”
You can read Moore’s full piece here.
In briefings filed by the Tr*mp administration, it argues against the claimants, saying: “[The] prohibition on discrimination because of sex does not bar discrimination because of sexual orientation. The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation.
“An employer who discriminates against employees in same-sex relationships thus does not violate Title VII [sex discrimination rules] as long as it treats men in same-sex relationships the same as women in same-sex relationships.”
The briefing also notes how the US Congress has failed to pass laws which explicitly protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Although the Equality Act, which would do this, has passed some stages, Republicans in Congress refuse to vote on it.
A further briefing argues in favour of firing a trans employee simply because they are trans. “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination against transgender persons based on their transgender status,” says the briefing.
“It simply does not speak to discrimination because of an individual’s gender identity or a disconnect between an individual’s gender identity and the individual’s sex.”