So, yes, let’s celebrate a major victory. Let’s rejoice that the law finally recognizes LGBTQ people are entitled to equal protection, but let’s do so somberly, understanding that the law is a blunt instrument not well suited to changing hearts and minds.
But these laws can give you money (in a successful lawsuit) and these awards do change behaviors as big companies don’t want to be liable for the damages that racism and bigotry causes them to have to pay out.
And so the law, when implemented correctly, does change the culture. I fought for having sexual orientation included in our company’s anti- harassment policy way back in 2005, before sexual orientation was being considered for inclusion in the protected class category.
I believe it is included as a protected category within the federal employment sector.
But, regardless of who Title VII actually covers (which technically does not cover the LGBTQ community as a protected class, just gender) having a company take a stand against the discrimination and harassment affects the behavior of its employees and makes LGTBQ employees feel safer and included in the working environment.
And so, there are ways to push social justice movements other than through the courts. It was a gay guy executive who actually got that new policy on the table at my company. I wrote it, but he requested it; and because of him, leadership said, okay, sure. They wouldn’t (and didn’t) have responded to my suggestion with such ease.
My point is, though, that people have far more power than they actually think with regard to all of this. With enough public pressure, or pressure from powerful people, the laws and policies change. This LGTBQ win didn’t come from out of nowhere, in the 80s and 90s Civil Rights workers and lawyers figured out how to backdoor LGTBQ protection under the protected class of sex, under a Title VII. And the Supreme Court, co-signed this, in Price v. Waterhouse, in the late 80s, so really with this ruling they are just upholding precedent. It’s still a win though, because the fear in this community was that they would overturn that precedent.
But, we in the Civil Rights community have worked very hard to get the LGTBQ community protected some how; and while this ruling gives us nothing that we didn’t have before, at least it takes nothing away.