ST. LOUIS — It's been illegal to discriminate against a person because of their sex since 1964, as outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It had always been debated, though, if that included sexual orientation or gender identification — the LGBTQ community.
Bostock versus Clayton County, Georgia called into question firing someone for being gay or transgender — a legal form of discrimination in many places, including Missouri.
“I think it's surprising to a lot of people because of the strides that the LGBTQ community has made,” said Stephen Eisele, Executive Director of PROMO Missouri. “We sometimes take that for granted, and certainly we know that employment discrimination is something that happens regularly in our community.”
The issue was taken up in the Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia case. In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court decided LQBTQ employees are protected from discrimination in the workplace. In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, "An employer who fired 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."
While some states have made their own employee anti-discrimination laws in the past, most have not, including Missouri. In fact, advocates say it’s long felt like a losing battle in the Show-Me State.
“The Missouri nondiscrimination act or ‘MONA’ as people have known it has been filed 22 consecutive years. So, I certainly think it's safe to say Missouri lawmakers could have enacted these many years ago and we could have had these protections already for workers in Missouri,” said Eisele.
MONA would also outlaw discrimination in housing and public accommodation.
“Discrimination against the LGBT community has always been wrong. With today’s ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledges that it also violates federal law,” said Representative Crystal Quade, Missouri House Minority Leader, in a statement. “We will continue the two-decade-plus push for passage of the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act to ensure that our statute aligns with today’s decision and provides everyone with equal protection under the law.”
“I think people can take a moment to celebrate this win and still recognize the work that we have to do,” said Eisele.
The Trump administration had opposed this. NBC News reports the Justice Department sent a brief to the Supreme Court urging judges not to include LGBTQ people in their interpretation of the Civil Rights Act.
“The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation,” the brief states. “An employer thus discriminates ‘because of * * * sex’ under Title VII if it treats members of one sex worse than similarly situated members of the other sex. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, standing alone, does not satisfy that standard.”
This landmark ruling comes down right in the middle of pride month.