The ACLU of Rhode Island today commended six current and former elected state officials who have signed onto court briefs this month to urge the U.S. Supreme Court not to roll back civil rights protections for LGBTQ people when it hears a trio of discrimination cases this fall. All of the cases involve people who were fired for being LGBTQ.
The supporters of protections for the LGBTQ community from Rhode Island who signed onto “friend of the court” briefs were U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. David Cicilline, Attorney General Peter Neronha, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, and former Republican U.S. Representative Claudine Schneider. Reed, Whitehouse and Cicilline signed onto a brief signed by 39 U.S. Senators and 114 House Members; Neronha signed a brief filed on behalf of 21 states; Elorza joined one signed by 28 mayors, as well as 66 municipalities; and Schneider lent her name to a brief signed by dozens of self-described “Republicans, former Republicans, and political conservatives from diverse backgrounds.”
The employees in these cases, including ACLU clients Aimee Stephens who was fired for being transgender and Don Zarda who was fired for being gay, have argued that discrimination against LGBTQ people is an unlawful form of sex discrimination. Most federal appeals courts have agreed that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination apply to LGBTQ people. All told, 49 “friend of the court” briefs in support of the plaintiffs in these cases were filed in the U.S. Supreme Court by business leaders, elected officials, faith leaders and diverse coalitions.
In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed “The Equality Act,” a bill sponsored by Rep. Cicilline to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and other areas.
ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown said today: “For many years, Rhode Island has explicitly barred discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity but, as these cases demonstrate, much of the country remains without legal protection. In a time where the rights of LGBTQ people are being threatened, we thank these public officials who have used their voices to urge the court not to roll back LGBTQ rights elsewhere. No one should lose their jobs because of who they are.”
The cases will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on October 8.