A federal judge in Texas ruled that President Biden's administration had wrongly interpreted an Obamacare provision as barring healthcare providers from discriminating against gay and transgender people.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo ruled that a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2020 saying that a law barring workplace discrimination protects gay and transgender employees did not apply to the healthcare law. Kacsmaryk is appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump. His ruling came in a class action lawsuit by two doctors represented by the America First Legal Foundation.
Kacsmaryk said Congress, when adopting the law (Obamacare), could have included "sexual orientation" or "gender identity" in the text, but "chose not to do so”. He also mentioned that the logic of the Supreme Court's 6-3 conclusion that Title VII's bar against sex discrimination covered gay and transgender workers did not give the same result under Title IX's text.
The Obama administration introduced rules in 2016 that made clear that LGBTQ+ people would be protected under the healthcare discrimination provision.
But those LGBTQ+ healthcare protections were reversed by the Trump administration. In June, President Joe Biden's administration proposed a rule to re-enshrine such protections through the interpretation of Bostock, though at the moment they hang in the balance.
What this landmark case is?
Gerald Bostock worked for Clayton County, Georgia, for 10 years. After joining a gay softball league, Clayton County fired him for “conduct unbecoming of its employees."
Bostock sued the employers alleging Title VII protected workers on the basis of sexual orientation. Clayton County did not argue that sexual orientation played no role in his firing; instead, it argued that Title VII does not prohibit such discrimination.
A 2017 decision in the Eleventh Circuit held that Title VII did not protect LGBTQ workers. Soon the Supreme Court took up the case.
At the time the Supreme Court decided Bostock, a majority of states had already passed legislation prohibiting workplace discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees.
In a decision penned by Justice Neal Gorsuch, the Supreme Court held that Title VII protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.
It did so based on a judicial philosophy called textualism. Justice Gorsuch was joined by one other Republican-appointed justice, John Roberts, and the four Democratic-appointed justices. Justices Alito, Thomas, and Kavanaugh dissented.
The recent development of this case:
As per the recent development, Clayton County has settled a discrimination lawsuit with a former employee whose firing became the center of the national battle over gay rights in the workplace in the last decade. The county has agreed to pay Gerald Bostock, a former Clayton child welfare services coordinator, $825,000 to settle a lawsuit.
As per the talk Atlanta Journal-Constitution had with Bostock, the settlement make him feel settled and calm. Bostock also said he has not had a happy sleep in many years, which he can have now. He is happy that he will have some place in LGBTQ+ and American history and that Americans no longer have to face workplace discrimination or do not have to fear that they will lose their job “because of who they are, how they love, or how they identify.
As a result of the decision, Title VII does not need to be amended to prohibit employment discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers nationwide. All employers subject to Title VII can no longer discriminate based on a worker's LGBTQ+ status, regardless of the state or municipality in which they are based. You can find more details about the case on FindLaw.
Impact of Bostock vs Clayton County on the LGBTQ+ community:
In June 2022 ACLU’s website published an article written by John Davidson, a senior staff attorney, at LGBTQ & HIV Project, where the impact of Bostock v. Clayton County on LGBTQ Rights was discussed.
The LGBTQ+ community sought this achievement for more than 50 years. Before this remarkable win, employees in only less than half the states had legal protection against Anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, and gender identity discrimination at the workplace, and after the win, employees in all 50 states (including federal territories) had the safety net. Those who had to face difficulties due to discrimination could now file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which would investigate the complaint, seek to resolve it, and either file suit on behalf of the complainant or authorize them to file suit.
In addition, numerous sexual orientation and gender identity workplace discrimination lawsuits that had been rejected before Bostock have been revived. Having such a clear federal ban on workplace discrimination against LGBTQ+ people motivates and supports employers to take firm steps toward prevention in the first place.
As the LGBTQ+ community experiences great threats to civil liberties throughout the nation and there are unprecedented assaults on the rights of transgender young people, keeping such remarkable wins in mind is crucial to sustain and build resilience and hope among the community of present and future.