My house was built in the late 1890s. It still has a dark closet that once functioned as a root cellar. It’s now full of odd, rarely used cooking equipment, Christmas ornaments, and creepy cobwebs. We now call it the punishment room as a threat designed to spur good behavior in my guys. No one wants to be in there, but technically, it is a functional closet.
The law is often like that room. It tells us the minimum of what is expected of us – what is the basement of how we can treat each other. It’s functional but undesirable. Just like my guys, no one wants to be in the basement.
But sometimes, the law isn’t even the basement. It’s lower. Much lower. Never has that been clearer than today. Today, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in three cases involving whether “because of sex” protects individuals based on their LGBTQ status. If the Court finds Title VII doesn’t protect the LGBTQ community, employers in 28 states will be able to fire someone because of who they are and who they love. What’s really scary is that here is a real possibility the Supreme Court will find that the LGBTQ community is not protected.
What will this mean for employers? I hope nothing. I hope employers understand how stupid (yes, I wrote “stupid”) it is to discriminate on this basis. Not only is it unlawful in many states – including Minnesota – it is bad for business. At least one prominent study showed how LGBTQ-supportive policies were great for employees and business alike. Being inclusive is the right thing to do. Period.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Equality Act that would protect the LGBTQ community regardless of how the Supreme Court finds. But, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to allow a vote on the bill. It’s likely the bill would pass if it reached the Senate floor. In the meantime, the message to employers is that Congress doesn’t care if you discriminate.
But you don’t have to. Employers don’t have to do the minimum. You can keep employees out of the basement. We should treat each other fairly and kindly regardless of LGBTQ status. Here’s hoping the Supreme Court does the right thing, and the Senate does too.
In the meantime, no one can define your worth. You’re all worthy. Sending love and hope to everyone today.