Pride Month is dedicated to the celebration of LGBTQ culture and the continued fight for the community’s civil rights and equality. Nowhere has the fight for equality been more prominent than in the legal and court system.
Some wins stand out as landmark or pivotal - here is a review of five key court cases that advanced LGBTQ rights in the United States, and are often celebrated throughout the month of June each year.
Nowhere has the fight for LGBTQ equality been more prominent than in the court system.
1. Romer v. Evans in 1996
The US Supreme Court struck down a Colorado voter initiative that banned cities from passing anti-discrimination laws protecting gay and bisexual people. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the law attempted to eliminate a whole group of people’s right to seek civil rights protection.
Gender diversity in the legal profession matters now, more than ever.
2. Brandon vs Richardson County in 1997
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the police in Richardson County, Nebraska failed to protect a transgender man when he agreed to be a witness in the case against his rapists, which led to his murder. The Court also held that the Richardson County Sheriff was liable for his abusive treatment of the victim.
3. Gill v. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in 2010
Once same-sex couples could legally marry in some US jurisdictions, challenges were filed against Section 3 of the US Defense of Marriage Act’s (DOMA), which banned federal recognition of those marriages. The first successful challenge to DOMA was the Gill case. It came in the US District Court of Massachusetts, the first US state where same-sex couples won the right to marry. GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed the suit on behalf of myriad individuals who were discriminated against because their marriages were not recognized under the Act. The court agreed.
4. United States vs. Windsor in 2014
With the case of Edith Windsor, the US Supreme Court ruled that the ban on federal recognition of same-sex couples was unconstitutional. The Windsor win then led to challenges to state marriage bans across the United States. When Jim Obergefell and John Arthur married in Maryland, the couple sued to ensure their marriage would be recognized in Ohio. This case also went to the Supreme Court — a fight that ultimately resulted in all marriage bans in the country being struck down on June 26, 2015.
Pride month is dedicated to the celebration of and continued fight for the legal rights of the LGBTQ community .
5. Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020
In this recent US Supreme Court case, the Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination if they are gay or transgender. The Bostock case was consolidated with Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which were similar in scope. On June 15, 2020, the Court ruled in a 6-3 decision, covering all three cases, that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is indeed “discrimination because of sex" as prohibited by Title VII. The ruling has been hailed as one of the most important legal decisions regarding LGBTQ rights in the US. Read a deeper dive on
LGBTQ Rights and the Legal Community
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