A landmark Supreme Court decision announced in June will expand the civil rights of employees across the country, including here in the Saucon Valley area, where Saucon Source recently spoke to several employers about its impact.
In what is considered a historic ruling by the Chief Justice John Roberts-led court, it was affirmed that the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination on the basis of sex. The ruling was part of a 6-3 decision with Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s first appointee to the court, writing the majority opinion.
Most legal analysts have judged the ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County to be a major victory for the LGBTQ+ community and a loss for the Trump administration, which backed the three employers involved in the case.
Only one of the three employees who sued after claiming they had been fired on the basis of their sexuality was present for the historic ruling in their favor.
Gerald Bostock, a child welfare coordinator from Clayton County, Ga., claimed he was fired after his employer discovered he had joined a gay recreational softball league. Donald Zarda, a former skydiving instructor, and Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who claimed her employer of six years fired her after learning she was to begin transitioning, both died as the case was working its way through the court system.
Celebrated by civil rights activists, the decision has been met with dissent by some employers, including many who are affiliated with conservative religious organizations.
In a New York Times op-ed published last month, Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore said the ruling will infringe upon an employer’s ability to operate according to their long-held religious beliefs.
Here in the Saucon Valley community, the employers Saucon Source spoke with have expressed unequivocal support for the ruling. (Several local faith leaders were contacted for comment for this story; comment which as of publication had not been received.)
Grace Spirk, Director of Business Marketing and Real Estate Sales at Steel Club in Lower Saucon Township, said the club sees the ruling as a step in the right direction.
“(Steel Club) stands with our LGBTQ+ employees and members,” she said in a statement. “Steel Club does not think anyone should be discriminated against because of sexual orientation or identity. As the Human Rights Campaign writes, ‘No one should be denied a job or fired simply because of who they are or whom they love.’”
Owner and personal trainer at Hellertown’s Main Street Gym, Kevin Branco, said he also supports the ruling.
“It’s about time!” he said of the decision. “The fact that an employee could be fired simply because of their sexual orientation is appalling. Sadly this is just the first step to ensure they are protected.”
Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, said the center is available to provide local resources to employees and employers in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County ruling.
“At Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, community members can access our free LGBT legal clinic if they have questions about workplace or housing discrimination,” he said. “In addition, through our Training Institute we routinely provide training to companies who are working to ensure that their workplace is LGBT-welcoming.”
Director of Business and Diversity Councils of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Brittany Wiltshire said the chamber has supported what the ruling achieves.
“Most of the Lehigh Valley businesses, especially chamber members, already have nondiscrimination policies,” she said. “(The ruling) is now a chance for businesses to revamp their policies to adhere to new law.”
With support for LGBTQ employee rights evident from small business owners and community leaders, both Saucon Valley and Lehigh Valley businesses appear poised for growth in terms of acceptance of and respect for the minority communities they serve.