Every year the Supreme Court begins its term on the first Monday of October. This year’s docket promises to be important as the Court has accepted several important issues.
I don’t wish to discuss all of them in this post but one of the cases caught my attention. The Supreme Court agreed to decide on whether employers have the right to fire employees who they find to be gay, lesbian, or transgender. The Court consolidated a few cases and I wish to look at two of them: Bostock v. Clayton County and Harris Funeral Home v. EEOC.
Gerald Bostock worked in Clay County, Georgia as a child welfare service coordinator from 2003 to 2013. Mr. Bostock was a gay man but this wasn’t known to his employer until 2013 when he joined a gay softball league. Even though his job performance reviews were positive, when his orientation became know he was fired.
In Michigan Anthony Stephens worked for R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. After many years of employment, Anthony told his employer that he intended to transition to a woman and be known as Aimee Stephens and was fired.
The Court will decide on a specific point: The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination because of sex. At the time this was assumed to cover only employers who refused to hire women. At the time we knew little of sexual orientation and virtually nothing about men and women who chose to change or merge their sexual identity.
The Court needs to decide whether or not sex discrimination includes gay or transgender Americans. Supporters claim that the 1964 Act includes those who will suffer discrimination in the future. Opponents claim that it protects only straight women who wish to work at jobs reserved to straight men.
Those who know me know that I hold a progressive view of the law. Decisions made today affect future generations in ways that we can’t imagine. And that’s good.
I’ve written about this before but the decision in 1967 of Loving v. Virginia prohibited the ban on international marriage. Before that several states ruled that men and woman of different races couldn’t marry.
In the 50 years since then we’ve needed to confront another marriage issue: can adults of the same sex marry, and can those who wish to change their sexual identity be accepted?
I’m all in with the belief the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects both Mr. Bostock and Aimee Stephens and the Court should find in their favor.
Many remember a time when some thought it would make our lives easier if nobody of different races wanted to marry, but didn’t happen and they needed to accept something they didn’t like. A few decades later these same people were told to not only accept interracial marriage but also accept same sex marriage (or “marriage equality”) and it was a bridge too far.
And many of those who disapprove of marriage equality or transgender status point to a few passages in the Bible.
Well, I read the same Bible and have come to different conclusions: I’m all in with the belief that God is Love and we are called to love each other in a way that goes beyond our understanding. Others are all in with the belief that we are called to follow rules, especially those that make us comfortable.
But here’s my problem: seeing the Bible as a set of rules doesn’t respect the fact that we are adults. Children are supposed to be obedient and adults are supposed to be faithful. Adults should read Scripture recognizing that the authors lived in a place and a time where they dealt with certain realities.
Those who wrote the books we now recognize as Scripture had no concept of different races (though they probably had an understanding of different skin shades) or different sexual orientations. But they did have a concept of a God who loves all of us. The fact that God did not explicitly bless interrational or same sex marriages in the Bible doesn’t mean that God condemns them.
But today we recognize that we live in a world with different skin colors and different orientations. We live in a world where some of us choose to transition from what the Bible says to what the Bible means.
If we believe that God is Love and demands us to love each other, can we look beyond skin color and sexual orientation? I hope so.
And I hope the Supreme Court agrees with me.