In a landmark ruling which deserves wide emulation, and which is a significant victory for LGBTQ people in America, the US Supreme Court has protected gay and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace. A layer of meaning had to be imposed on Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex and national origin. Enacted in 1964, before the sexual revolution and the Stonewall riots of 1969 which kick-started the gay liberation movement in the US, it read sexual discrimination as unfairness to women or men. Questions of sexual orientation were unaddressed in almost all state jurisdictions.
This is clearly inadequate for the present, when people identify themselves on social media by declaring preferred personal pronouns. Now, on the basis of two lawsuits, one involving gay men who were fired, and another concerning a trans woman who was prevented from expressing her chosen identity in the workplace, the lacuna has been addressed. The state and employers had argued that Congress would have to legislate afresh to protect the labour rights of gay and transgender people. But workers objected that this protection flowed logically from the Act, and was constitutional in nature. The court has agreed.
This progressive step should be emulated widely. India, though, has only taken baby steps with the decriminalisation of gay sex, but India is a functioning anarchy. Historically, Indian society has been comfortable with transsexuals, and now they enjoy official recognition in everyday life. But they still have no place in the workforce and they won’t, without legal protection from gender discrimination, like in the US.
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