“We Have to Mass Mobilize”: Laverne Cox and Chase Strangio Sound the Alarm on Major LGBTQ SCOTUS Cases

At the start of its new term, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tuesday in three cases to determine whether LGBTQ people can be fired from their jobs due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of sex, as well as race, color, national origin and religion, but the Trump administration claims the law does not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The cases mark the first time the Supreme Court will rule on LGBTQ rights since conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy, who wrote many of the court’s major LGBTQ rights rulings. We speak with Laverne Cox, a longtime trans rights activist and award-winning transgender actress best known for her role on the show “Orange Is the New Black,” and Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project. His work includes impact litigation, as well as legislative and administrative advocacy, on behalf of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV across the United States. 

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The Supreme Court is starting a new term today in Washington, D.C. The court will be hearing major cases this year involving reproductive rights, immigration, the Second Amendment and LGBTQ rights.

On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments in three cases to determine whether LGBTQ people can be fired from their jobs due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s been described as, quote, “the most important case directly addressing LGBTQ people ever to reach the United States Supreme Court.” Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of sex, as well as race, color, national origin and religion. But the Trump administration claims the law does not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. One of the cases centers on a transgender woman from Michigan named Aimee Stephens, who was fired from her job at a funeral home in 2013.

AIMEE STEPHENS: When I was fired, it made me mad, to say the least. I was hurt that I was being treated that way after the commitment and service that I had been providing. And that’s when it finally hit home that we weren’t treated the same as everybody else, and that it was time that somebody stood up and said enough is enough.

AMY GOODMAN: The cases mark the first time the Supreme Court will rule on LGBTQ rights since conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy, who had written many of the court’s major LGBTQ rights rulings.

We are joined right now by two guests. Laverne Cox is with us, award-winning transgender actress, longtime trans rights activist, best known for her role of Sophia Burset on the show Orange Is the New Black. In 2014, she became the first transgender person on the cover of Time magazine and the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in an acting category. We’re also joined by Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project. His work includes impact litigation, as well as legislative and administrative advocacy, on behalf of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV across the United States.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Tuesday is a very significant day in the Supreme Court. Laverne Cox, talk about the cases that are before the High Court.

LAVERNE COX: Well, it’s the first time the Supreme Court will hear any case involving transgender rights, transgender civil rights, with Aimee Stephens’ case, and there’s two other cases of where two gay men were also fired from their jobs simply for being who they are. This is the first time the court will hear cases about whether or not Title VII applies to the LGBTQ+ community.

This has huge ramifications for us, because we know that this administration has been trying to take transgender people specifically, but the LGBTQ community in general, out of the realm of protections — the leaked memo that we all remember from a year ago, where they want to change the definition of “sex” so that trans folks wouldn’t have any recourse under the law; the protests that ensued after that; the new directive from HHS and from HUD, where they want to discriminate against us in housing and in healthcare. So, this is really huge, not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but for also any worker who might not conform to someone else’s idea of how they should express their gender.

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