Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in three cases related to employment discrimination, including one brought by Gerald Bostock in Georgia, a man who was fired after his employer learned that he is gay.
Gerald has spoken out about how he felt demoralized after facing discrimination because of who he is. He’s talked about how the incident derailed his career and fueled anxiety about
I know how he feels: I too was fired for being gay.
For more than 30 years, I poured my heart and energy into working for a community organization in Blue Ridge that served individuals with mental illness and substance abuse problems. The work was challenging but rewarding, and I was good at it.
Over my tenure, I received numerous commendations for my service. I won the respect of our CEO and helped him learn the ropes of the agency. When one of my co-workers brought up my sexual orientation to this CEO and implied that I shouldn’t be working for the agency because of it, the CEO rightfully dismissed that complaint and said that my sexual orientation did not impact
But in my 31st year at the organization, that CEO was let go, and shortly after, the new leadership treated me with increasing hostility, including hostility to the fact that I am a lesbian. It wasn’t long before I was demoted from my job and eventually terminated, just days before Christmas and one year before my retirement.
I dedicated so much of my life to the agency, starting work early and staying late until the job was done. I worked on weekends. I worked with passion and with excellence. But that didn’t matter: The new leadership didn’t like that I am gay, so I was fired after three decades.
In the wake of my termination, I grasped for something I could do. I filed for unemployment, and through an appeal process, won the right to collect unemployment due to “unjust” termination. Despite this, lawyer after lawyer told me that my options were limited because the state of Georgia doesn’t guarantee protection from discrimination based on LGBTQ identity. That’s why in Georgia we’ve been working so hard to pass comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections right here at home — and across the country.
Gerald Bostock wound up filing a federal lawsuit against his former employer, arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on “sex” also protects workers from anti-LGBTQ discrimination. After all, Gerald was fired because he was a man attracted to other men. He would not have been fired if he was a woman attracted to men or a man attracted to women. That’s sex discrimination.
Over the past decade a growing legal consensus has solidified that Title VII protects LGBTQ people. Court after court has ruled this way, with one major exception being the court that ruled in Gerald Bostock’s case. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court will resolve the issue, and the ruling will have a big impact on LGBTQ workers nationwide.
I hope that as the justices make their decision, they will remember stories from people like me: People who want to put in an honest day’s work, find meaning and purpose in what they do on a daily basis, and provide for their families. There’s a lot to worry about in this world, but no one — including no LGBTQ person — should have to worry that they’ll have to deal with being legally fired because of a core part of who they are. Our country and our state should be more just than that.
Connie Galloway resides in Blue Ridge.