LGBTQ+ citizens face changes to rights

Abigail McArthur-Self, Editor-in-Chief

This Pride Month has seen a number of changes to federal protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

On Saturday, June 13, the four-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the Trump administration announced that they had finalised a regulation that would remove protections from healthcare discrimination on the basis of gender identity. 

The rule affected the interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which provides protection from discrimination based on “race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex.” 

In 2016, the Obama administration issued a rule that defined discrimination on the basis of sex to include, “one’s internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.” The rule also included protections from discrimination for terminating a pregnancy. The Trump administration finalized a rule removing these protections, and redefining sex discrimination as discrimination based on whether an individual is male or female “as determined by biology,” according to the US Department of Health and Human Services release. 

This release says this change is “restoring the rule of law,” and that the previous protections were an overreach of power. Sexuality was not protected under the 2016 rule and is not protected now. 

This could affect both cost of care and access to care for transgender individuals, and was quickly met with backlash, trepidation and frustration from members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Trump administration has also submitted amicus curiae briefs to the Supreme Court in cases concerning LGBTQ+ rights. Amicus curiae briefs are briefs from outside of the cases and its directed parties that attempt to provide the court with expertise, perspective or context. 

One of the briefs argued in support of a Catholic foster care organization that is suing Philadelphia. The city ended its contract with the organization because it refused to consider gay couples as potential parents. The brief suggested that the city should continue using public funds to work with the Catholic organization.

Another brief argued against protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from workplace discrimination. 

On June 15, 2020, however the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of gay and trans petitioners who had been fired over their identities. The majority opinion said that the employer’s terminations of these employees was unlawful discrimination. 

The case also in part hinged on the interpretation of the word “sex” in regards to protection from discrimination, as gender identity and sexual orientation have not been written into the law as their own protected classes. 

The majority opinion says, “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” If a man were married to a man and a woman were married to a man, the only difference, the court argued, was the sex of the individuals involved. Therefore, firing the man for being married to a man is an act of discrimination based on sex. If a cisgender woman presents as a woman and a transgender woman presents as a woman, the only difference is their sex assigned at birth, and therefore firing the transgender individual is an act of discrimination based on sex. 

The ruling itself deems it unlawful to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals for employment. It also sets a precedent that protects LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination under pre-existing laws. This could affect future cases that involve issues such as healthcare discrimination, as the Supreme Courts current ruling expands protections based on sex in contradiction to the Trump administration’s removal of such protections.