Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, ACLU of Wisconsin react to Supreme Court ruling

NOW: Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, ACLU of Wisconsin react to Supreme Court ruling

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center is celebrating the Supreme Court's ruling to provide protections against workforce discrimination for LGBTQ+ individuals, but says there's still work to be done. 

The center released the following statement in part following the decision Monday, June 15: 

"Today's court's decision affirms and emphasizes the importance of Americans coming together for the good of the nation and all of its people. The Supreme Court has ruled that companies do not have a right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace. This historic decision states that LGBTQ+ people are, and should be, protected from discrimination under federal law.

While we celebrate this step in the right direction, we must remember there is still much work to been done to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community is fully protected under federal law. Today, it is still legal for federally funded entities, including hospitals, colleges, and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. It is also legal for stores, restaurants, and hotels to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community in certain situations."

The ruling from the Supreme Court will extend protections to millions of workers nationwide and is a defeat for the Trump administration, which argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that bars discrimination based on sex did not extend to claims of gender identity and sexual orientation. The 6-3 opinion was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberal justices.

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center went on to say:

"Additionally, last week the Department of Health and Human Services made damaging changes to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. These changes revoked anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people as well as, individuals with limited English proficiency and people with disabilities. This action is a significant setback in working towards equality and extraordinarily harmful and dangerous, especially during a pandemic.

The Center will continue with our actions and advocacy, and we are dedicated to uplifting the voices and empowering Milwaukee’s vibrant Black transgender and gender-diverse community. The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center will remain hopeful that we will reach equality for all in the near future, but until that happens, the Center is here for you."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin also chimed in on the decision. They say the biggest direct impact title seven has for the state and city of Milwaukee will be for transgender employees. The ACLU says Wisconsin state law banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but did not specifically ban discrimination on gender identity before Monday.

Human resources outsourcing business, Employco USA, with clients in Milwaukee says Monday’s Supreme Court decision was a landmark ruling.

“This really sets the tone for reducing discrimination across the country,” adds Rob Wilson, President and CEO of Employco USA.

Employco USA says a study by the Office of Human Rights found 48-percent of employers showed bias against hiring a transgender person even though they had better qualifications.

“90-percent felt they had been harassed on the job and you’re finding that the survey showed that transgender employees were being passed over for jobs and even promotions,” adds Wilson.

Wilson says employers should pay attention, he advises companies to update their practices to show discrimination will not be tolerated.

“Don’t allow people to make comments like I didn’t know you were a guy or a woman,” said Wilson. “You need to counsel your managers and employees.”

“People have to be valued and respected and heard,” says Larry Dupuis, Legal Director for the ACLU of Wisconsin.

The ACLU says Title VII provides a number of remedies for LGBTQ employees who are fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including reinstatement, pay and other damages.

“Title VII also provides for emotional distress damages in some cases,” adds Dupuis.

Dupuis says the ACLU represented a few cases in Milwaukee related to unfair treatment of transgender people in the workplace.

“Most recently access to healthcare for trans people, including employee healthcare coverage,” he said.

He says while he’s elated the law has changed for the LGBTQ community, it’s important for people to also change their hearts and minds.

“We have to keep trying in the legislatures,” said Dupuis. “But we also have to keep trying with our neighbors, our friends and our families, and that’s how hearts and minds change.”

Dupuis says Title VII not only prohibits the firing of LGBTQ people but also other unfair practices, moving forward he advises employers check their healthcare benefits to cover conditions including gender dysphoria.

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