(Oakland, CA) – Today, the Supreme Court of the United States failed to protect a gay couple from unfair treatment. While the 7-2 decision applies only to this particular case, we are troubled by the threat it poses to advances made in civil and human rights and frustrated that the Court did not unequivocally denounce discrimination. However, the ruling is clear that state laws can and do protect LGBTQ people and that there is no constitutional right to discriminate.
“Nobody should be turned away or denied service just because of who they are,” said Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center. “Today’s decision may be mistakenly seen as opening the door to such discrimination in some situations, which can have devastating consequences for transgender and gender nonconforming people of color, who already face intense obstacles in every aspect of life. Transgender Law Center will continue fighting tirelessly to defend every member of our community.”
“Being turned away for being transgender is often personally devastating and can have a profoundly negative impact on someone’s life,” added Isa Noyola, Deputy Director. “Discrimination is an act of violence that can limit what we see as our own potential in this world, deprive of us of jobs, housing, education, and make us feel unsafe leaving our home and participating in public life.”
Earlier this year, Transgender Law Center joined organizations across the country in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to reject discrimination. The brief, submitted by Transgender Law Center and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP on behalf of TLC, Southerners on New Ground (SONG), GSA Network, and TransLatina Network, detailed the harm that a ruling sanctioning discrimination would cause transgender and gender nonconforming people of color.
Freedom of religion is important; that’s why it is a right clearly protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, using that freedom to justify discrimination is a rhetoric used to dehumanize Black people, people of color, women, people living with disabilities, and anyone living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities. This ruling fails to prioritize the rights and safety of LGBTQ people, which follows the unfortunate trend of allowing bigotry to hide under the guise of religious freedom against so many in this country’s history.
The story of Beverly, a transgender Latina woman featured in TLC’s amicus brief, illustrates the type of discrimination that may be emboldened by today’s ruling, as well as the resilience of transgender people facing attacks on our dignity and survival. Beverly was turned away from a hair salon once her stylist learned she was transgender, with the stylist citing religious objections. Beverly’s feelings of shame and embarrassment from this incident followed her for years and made it impossible for her to visit a salon again. She learned to cut her own hair as a result and, after years of work, is hoping to open her own salon that will be welcoming to all people.
Discrimination against transgender people is already rampant and TLC will continue to fight against any institution, business, or persons who discriminate against transgender and gender non-conforming people using religious or freedom of expression as a means to justify their unacceptable actions. Please contact TLC if you experience discrimination or are turned away based on someone’s religious objections: https://transgenderlawcenter.org/legalinfo. We know that change comes from movement building and we are here to fight and organize with you for the long run.
Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation.