A surprise ruling by the Supreme Court Monday protects gays and transgenders from being fired by those who feel a difference in sexual orientation or gender is a crime or reason for shame.
What made the ruling a surprise was the role of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, an appointee of president Donald Trump and a conservative jurist expected to stand with those who decry such progressive ideas as gay marriage, but joined the court liberals by making the decision a 6-3 vote and also wrote the majority opinion.
“By discriminating against homosexuals, the employer intentionally penalizes men for being attracted to men and women for being attracted to women,” Gorsuch wrote. “By discriminating against transgender persons, the employer unavoidably discriminates against persons with one sex identified at birth and another today. Any way you slice it, the employer intentionally refuses to hire applicants in part because of the affected individuals’ sex.”
Writes lawyers Josha Matz and Ronnie Kaplin:
To state the obvious, those who wrote and supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would have been stunned by this outcome. They lived in a world that treated LGBTQ people as psychopaths, blasphemers and criminals — outlaws who obviously could be fired without constraint.
Yet over time, Title VII has been interpreted to cover other situations its drafters had not contemplated: sexual harassment, gender stereotyping — and now, discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender employees. In Gorsuch’s conception, the breadth of the statutory language made this outcome inevitable: “The limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. . . . Only the written word is law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”
We admire the force of Gorsuch’s reasoning. One of us wrote an amicus brief urging precisely this approach. But there’s more to the story than just a text seeking its fullest realization. Today’s ruling rests upon generations of struggle to achieve true equality in fact and in law.
“True equality in fact and in law.” That’s a struggle we face in America today. The protests that has gripped the nation for the last two weeks come from abuse of that supposed equality by out of control police officers to kill black people without provocation.
Violating true equality exists in church pulpits where fundamentalist ministers claim homosexuality is “sin” and refuse to marry or recognize gay marriage.
Religious conservatives rose up Monday to decry Justice Gorsuch for his application of the law without the bias of belief.
“I find this to be a very said day,” declares evangelical pastor Franklin Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham. “I don’t know how this is going to protect us.”
Conservative religious groups believe that they should have the right to only hire and associate with those of what Graham calls “like minds.” Teachers at Catholic schools in Washington State and Indiana have gone to court because they were fired because of their sexual identity. One of the cases involved in Monday’s Supreme Court ruling involved a man who was fired because he joined a gay athletic group on his own time.
Too many religions believe such actions are fine.
“All those evangelicals who sided with Trump in 2016 to protect them from the cultural currents, just found their excuse to stay home in 2020 thank to Trump’s Supreme Court picks,” conservative radio host and blogger Erick Erickson, wrote on Twitter.
“Most evangelicals and Catholics and others who hold to a traditional Christian ethic are counter cultural,” admits Russell Moore, president of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Some call the beliefs “counter cultural.” Others call it disobeying the law.
The Supreme Court has ruled gay marriage legal yet fundamentalists and evangelicals refuse to marry people of the same sex or allow them to be recognized as a married couple in their churches.
A minister told me one time that their is “God’s law” that he feels overrides the law of the land.
I asked him if “God’s law” also recognized lying as a “sin.”
“Of course,” he said. “It is a commandment.”
Then asked him why he and other evangelicals enthusiastically support a president who fact-checkers say has lied to the American people and Congress and others more than 18,000 times in his first term in office.
I asked: “Is that not hypocritical?” I’m still waiting for a direct answer to that question.
I’ve found, in over a half-century of covering society as a newspaperman, that politics and religion are too often ruled by hypocrisy.
Not all religions, Christian and otherwise, agree with the fundamentalists and evangelicals. The Interfaith Alliance policy director Katy Joseph calls the court ruling Monday “a watershed moment for equality.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State president Rachel Lester notes:
The progressive, inclusive faith and secular communities must come together to make clear that religious freedom is a shield that protects, not a sword that licenses discrimination.
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, president of the Council of Bishops for the United Methodist Church for the United Methodist Church, says she appreciates the Supreme Court’s decision.
United Methodists are splitting into two groups because of what they call “fundamental differences’ over same-sex marriage.”
We have faithful followers of Jesus who both stand on very opposite interpretations of L.G.B.T.Q. issues. My hope is that at some point we will look at ways that do honor and respect people for all that God has called them to be and do.