17 years ago when my husband was admitted to the hospital, I stayed continuously by his side. Every day, my employer called me to come back to work stating, “Doesn’t he have family that can take care of him?” Of course, I was his family. On the fifth day, they told me if I didn’t return to work I would be fired. Thankfully, he regained consciousness that same day, and I returned to work where I pointedly challenged my boss, that had we had been of opposite sex my employment would have been secure while I tended to my sick husband. She coldly agreed.
We are lucky to live in California, a state that has some of the strongest legal protections for the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, our LGBTQ siblings in 29 other states are not expressly protected by state law which leaves far too many in our community vulnerable to the discriminatory whims of an employer, a challenge that is now set to come before the Supreme Court this Tuesday. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has been used for decades to help protect cis, straight, and LGBTQ people from discrimination based on prescriptive notions and stereotyping of behavior or expression based on a person’s sex, but the Trump administration’s Department of Justice is asking our highest court to permit discrimination.
The anti-LGBTQ elected officials and those who fund them have worked for years to pack our courts with lifetime judicial appointments that threaten to prohibit LGBTQ progress and roll back our protections. This new challenge in front of our nation’s highest court underlines the urgency for our community to stay focused and engaged in the work for equality. While each of us alone may not be able to sway the Supreme Court, our everyday actions can shift the court of public opinion and ensure that those in office are compassionate to our community.
Employment and economic stability are vital for the progress of our movement. While our eyes turn to the court, we cannot lose sight of the road ahead of us as we work to have an accurate count in the Census, ethical nonpartisan redistricting efforts, and turn out the vote in 2020. How we express our gender or the gender of whom we love should not be a barrier to employment. They are our Legacy of Liberation.
Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made him a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.