Residents react to U.S. Supreme Court ruling against discrimination
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that gay, lesbian and transgender employees are protected from discrimination based on sex under the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.
With a 6-3 ruling, Justice Neil Gorusch, President Trump’s first appointee, wrote the majority opinion.
“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” Justice Gorusch wrote. “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.”
He was joined in his opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and the four liberal justices. Conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.
The case involved two gay men and a transgender woman who sued for discrimination after they were fired.
The transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, died of kidney failure before she could see the court’s ruling.
While the ruling is a victory for the LGBTQ+ community, some members feel as though this isn’t enough to protect transgender people. They say the Trump administration has rolled back protections against gender identity discrimination in health care.
Han Koehle is a current board member of the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network, and identifies as nonbinary. Han’s preferred pronouns are they, them and theirs.
Han developed the Health Equity Initiative at UCSB and researches stigma and its health outcomes for queer and trans folks in the city and globally. In addition, Han is a clinical social work intern at the Isla Vista Clinic, which is part of the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.
“Obviously it’s a huge relief… It’s a really big win,” Han said of the ruling. “But as a health researcher specifically, I think about employment as the way most people get access to health care. We can access employment, we do have income and we do have insurance, but we still can’t get the care.”
Han said that trans people still can’t get lifesaving and preventative care.
“I’m really sad that Aimee Stephens didn’t live to see the end of her case,” Han said. “When there’s widespread discrimination in labor, it robs trans people of health and longevity.”
Darby Fennell is the coordinator of Lisa’s Place, SBTAN’s community center. Darby identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronouns they, them and theirs.
“I’m having a hard time thinking about it in a positive way because of what the Trump administration is doing trying to take away our rights for health care and housing,” Darby said. “(This ruling) is just making it OK for the trans community to work until we’re sick and then refuse to pay for it.”
Darby said the main focus should be on fighting back against the government and gaining back protections for housing and health care.