As the Supreme Court prepares to hear three cases regarding LGBTQ rights in the workplace, Yale and New Haven activists rallied in front of the U.S. District Courthouse on Monday evening to show support for equal employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In hearing the three cases tomorrow, the Court will grapple with a variety of issues — including whether it is lawful to dismiss an employee on the basis of sexual or gender identity as well as how to legally define sex discrimination in the workplace. On the eve of the hearings, New Haven LGBTQ community members and allies gathered in front of the district courthouse in support of LGBTQ workers’ rights. The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) spearheaded planning efforts for the rally, which was co-sponsored by Trans at Yale, OutLaws at Yale Law School, Black Lives Matter of New Haven, the New Haven Pride Center and Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. For nearly two hours, speakers from these organizations spoke and led chants.
“The outcome of these cases is going to set a huge precedent for LGBTQ rights across the country,” said IV Staklo, an organizer from PSL. “In New Haven there’s a number of different organizations coming together to not only show force to our local and federal government, but also to show solidarity towards each other.”
Staklo said that the Court’s impending decisions should not discourage the activists’ commitment to LGBTQ workers’ rights. They added that although the legal system may not always be at the forefront of social change, community members still have a responsibility to continue advocating for the cause.
They also applauded the support of Yale Law students in attendance.
“I think it’s amazing that so many Law students came out, because they’re showing that, as people who want to work in the legal system, they’re standing on the right side of history,” Staklo said.
Sarah Eppler-Epstein LAW ’21, a member of OutLaws, outlined possible legal ramifications of the impending hearings.
Eppler-Epstein added that these cases have the possibility “to be some of the most important LGBTQ cases in U.S. history.”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in law school, [it’s that] no matter how the arguments go tomorrow and no matter what the outcome is in the spring, the courts themselves won’t save us,” Eppler-Epstein said. “Law in this country has always been used to protect the rich, white, male status quo.”
Maia Leonardo, a PSL organizer, told the News about the implications of the Court’s decisions for people like herself. As a transgender woman, she said she has experienced “employment discrimination and hostile workplace conditions.” She added that she believes workplaces should not be allowed to deny jobs based on gender or sexual identity.
Leonardo told the crowd that once she transitioned at work, she was told not to “start wearing a dress all of a sudden.” At the rally, she led the crowd in chanting: “A job is a right. Healthcare is a right. Housing is a right.”
Miranda Rector SPH ’21 told the News they are committed to voicing these issues — concerning the intersections of public health with racial justice as well as immigrant, reproductive and LGBTQ rights — through the New Haven Pride Center.
“I think that while there’s always problems in the world, we’re living in a particularly terrifying time right now, and having something like this, where the community gets together in such a strong way, is beautiful,” Rector said. “As someone who is both a Yale student and involved in the New Haven Pride Center, I recognize that it is important for Yale students to use the privilege and platform we have to voice our concerns, especially ones that affect marginalized community members like this one. Even when the legal system fails us, we need to get together as a community and fight back.”
New Haven’s U.S. District Courthouse is located at 141 Church St.
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