These days, a week can feel like a year — and that’s not always a bad thing.
After months of quarantine due to COVID-19 and weeks of protest against racialized oppression in this country, we received two wins from the Supreme Court of the United States that will be lifesaving for our communities.
Title VII & 1557
On Monday, June 16, SCOTUS ruled that LGBTQ people cannot be fired from their jobs based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In many ways, this ruling holds more significance for the LGBTQ community than marriage equality — and it positively impacts the issue of workplace discrimination across this nation.
I think Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith said it best when she described the win as a “cool glass of water on a hot day.” It’s a moment of relief — celebration, even — but just one moment within the larger struggle for liberation for all marginalized folks. There are still critical gaps in our nondiscrimination laws — in housing, public places, federal programs and more. HB142 is still on the books in our state until the end of this year. Outside of the workplace, LGBTQ people face harassment and mistreatment in their daily lives — and black and brown Americans in particular.
One very glaring example of this is the Trump administration finalizing a rule interpreting Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that removes clear protections from discrimination against LGBTQ people on June 12. This change opens the door — even encourages — rampant discrimination against transgender folks at the hands of healthcare professionals. This attack clearly shows that while progress may benefit some of us, the most vulnerable members of our communities continue to suffer at the hands of the Trump administration.
On June 18, we received even more good news from SCOTUS: the justices ruled that Trump cannot immediately end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a mechanism that protects people brought to the United States as children by shielding them from deportation and letting them work.
Trump has very publicly waged a war against immigrants in this country throughout the course of his presidency, and the move to end DACA was only the latest in these attacks.
Had DACA ended, over 700,000 young Americans — many of them LGBTQ — would’ve been subjected to deportation. The consequences of this would have been unimaginable, with thousands of families ripped apart due to unjust and discriminatory immigration statutes. It’s important that the LGBTQ community continue to lock arms with the immigrant community and fight for their rights to live and work in this country in the same way we do.
Black Lives Matter
In the backdrop of these rulings are, of course, the continued protests in the streets stemming from the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. Since George’s death, we’ve only continued to see outrageous violence committed against black folks, including two black transgender women named Dominique Rem’mie Fells and Riah Milton.
This horrific brutality against our society’s most vulnerable has only increased since Donald Trump took office in 2017. His administration and supporters are responsible for solidifying white nationalism and white supremacy as a political identity in this country — and it’s our collective responsibility to do something about it.
In whatever way you can, I encourage you to show up in this moment and see how all of these issues are interconnected. The murder of black and brown folks in the street, the attempt to remove 700,000 immigrants from this nation’s borders, the lack of discrimination protections in our laws for LGBTQ folks — we are all fighting against systematic, oppressive power structures that make life more difficult for us all. The environment of COVID-19 is bringing all of these issues to the surface, and many folks are seeing this interconnectivity for the very first time.
At Equality North Carolina, we hope you’ll join us within this intersectional lens and fight alongside us to build a world where all marginalized folks are afforded the same opportunities as those holding the most power and privilege.