U.S. Supreme Court Rules Federal Law Protects LGBTQ+ Workers

Redford resident Aimee Stephen has won her historic case
aimee stephens supreme court
Transgender pride flag photo: IStock

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and sex — also protects LGBTQ+ workers, meaning individuals cannot be fired because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The court considered two cases in its ruling, one of which was brought forth by Redford resident Aimee Stephens.

Stephens was fired from her job at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home in Garden City in 2013 after she announced that she would live her life as a woman. She sued her employer, arguing that she had been terminated because she was a transgender woman. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, and in October, Stephens traveled to Washington for the hearing.

Stephens died last month from complications due to kidney failure, but she released a statement to the ACLU before then that reflected on a possible ruling in her favor. “Firing me because I’m transgender was discrimination, plain and simple, and I am glad the court recognized that what happened to me is wrong and illegal,” she said. “I am thankful that the court said my transgender siblings and I have a place in our laws — it made me feel safer and more included in society.”

Her wife of 20 years, Dona, said Aimee spent the last seven years fighting against discrimination of transgender people. “I am grateful for this victory to honor the legacy of Aimee, and to ensure people are treated fairly regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Dona said.

Following the ruling, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also released a statement that applauded the court for its decision and commended Aimee and all the other LGBTQ+ Michiganders for their work. “Today, in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court confirmed what we already know — that nobody deserves to lose their job because of who they are or how they identify,” Whitmer said.

She also called for an expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, a Michigan law that prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, sex, height, weight, familial status, and marital status, but does not protect LGBTQ+ individuals. “We must continue fighting to expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community and make Michigan a state where more people want to move to for opportunity,” Whitmer said. “In honor of Aimee, take today to celebrate this victory, and tomorrow, let’s continue fighting to ensure equality for all Michiganders.”