The Supreme Court reaffirmed protection of LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in the workplace in a 6-3 decision Monday.
“It means that under federal law, an employer who fires an employee just for being gay or transgender violates the Civil Rights Act. It’s a huge, huge victory and I was really thrilled to see it,” said Libby Bakalar, a board member with the Southeast Alaska LGBTQ+ Alliance in a phone interview, speaking in a personal capacity. “It’s a pretty simple, straightforward victory.”
The protection created by the Supreme Court decision stands in stark contrast to many states, which do not have statutes barring discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees in place.
“Alaska is one of the states with no protections for sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Jennifer Fletcher, transgender woman and treasurer of SEAGLA, in a phone interview. “This will extend those protections to Alaskans. That is outstanding.”
How this will affect ongoing related court cases, as well as how this will affect institutions like the military, has yet to be seen.
While some cities in Alaska, including Juneau, have some protections in place, Bakalar said, the ruling will extend that workplace protection to all Alaskans. An executive order previously protected state employees, Fletcher said, but this covers all employees, everywhere in the U.S.
“We have sort of a hodgepodge patchwork,” Bakalar said. “There’s no general blanket state law that’s analogous to the Civil Rights Act. Until today, that left folks vulnerable to discrimination.”
The decision is also a good sign for people who worried that the justices appointed by President Donald Trump would ignore their responsibilities to their Supreme Court and decide based on political affiliation instead, Bakalar said.
“It’s a huge victory for the country and the court,” Bakalar said. “I think today’s decision is a relief for people who watch (the Supreme Court). That tells us the court is operating the way it should be.”
Others echoed that sentiment, including Alaska legislators. Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, who has put forward a bill to protect Alaskans from all forms of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, was one of them.
Josephson said the Supreme Court’s decision and his bill do not perfectly overlap —the bill would protect against discrimination in housing and lending as well as employment — but he still welcomed the protections created by the court’s decision.
“It is a great day for LGBT rights,” Josephson said in an email. “Further, Justices Roberts and Gorsuch prove to American conservatives that they are men who are willing to look at each case uniquely and thoughtfully.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, also released a statement praising the Supreme Court’s decision. Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young’s office did not immediately respond to inquiries.
“People should not live in fear of being discriminated against or losing their job because of their LGBTQ status,” Murkowski said in a statement. “I am pleased to see today’s Supreme Court holding that existing federal civil rights law protects individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Murkowski said. “This is long overdue, and is significant progress as we seek to protect and uphold the rights and equality of all Americans.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.