On October 8, 2019, I sat at the counsel table in the Supreme Court of the United States for oral arguments in a set of cases that would decide whether it is lawful under federal law to fire someone for being LGBTQ. Just nine years out of law school and 10 years after I had come out as transgender, I had never imagined that I would be part of this crucial fight for my community. In fact, if you had asked me in my childhood, I probably would not have been able to even imagine being alive at 37, let alone witnessing and participating in this historic moment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination because of an individual’s sex. Congress’s broad, simple command—that employers must not take sex into account in making employment decisions—has been a lifeline for LGBTQ people who had no explicit legal protections from discrimination under federal law.
For years LGBTQ advocates built a movement and a set of legal arguments that provided protections in employment, education, housing, credit, and later, health care, interpreting prohibitions on sex discrimination to encompass discrimination against someone for being LGBTQ. But in April 2019, the Supreme Court granted review to cases that put this precedent at risk. As with so much decades-long progress, under the Trump administration everything we had worked toward seemed suddenly so fragile.