To the members and readers of the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law:

On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion holding that an employer who fires an individual solely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia is a huge victory for the LGBTQ community in the United States. Prior to this holding, no federal protections existed for transgender and gay professionals in the workplace, leaving these individuals vulnerable to workplace discrimination and job loss due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. Plaintiff Gerald Bostock was fired from his county job after his employer found out that he participated in a gay softball league. Plaintiff Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired after he told a female customer of his gay identity to make her feel more comfortable about being intimately attached during skydiving preparation. Zarda tragically passed in 2014 in a skydiving accident after filing an employment discrimination claim. Lastly, Plaintiff Aimee Stephens was dismissed from her job at a Michigan funeral home two weeks after she told her boss she was transgender. Unfortunately Stephens did not live to see her case’s outcome, but her legacy of bravery, along with Zarda’s, remains with us today.

Vanderbilt’s Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law is committed to the furtherance of extraordinary legal scholarship and evolution of the legal profession as a whole. A part of this mission includes fighting for a more just world in which marginalized communities are empowered to advocate for their own legal rights. While Bostock is a significant step forward, the fight must continue. According to a survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender individuals are much more likely to experience poverty, unemployment, and violence because of their gender identities. Furthermore, the intersection of one’s race and transgender identity can make them especially at risk. For example, the Human Rights Campaign has estimated that Black transgender women are at least 4.3 times more likely to be murdered than cis women are.

As we enter the last weeks of Pride Month, I would like to challenge myself, JETLaw, legal colleagues, and readers to continue to interrogate our own hidden biases, to educate ourselves on the injustices that the LGBTQ community continue to face, and to reflect on ways that we can become actively anti-homophobic and anti-transphobic. For more information, visit https://www.glaad.org. As always, I am available as a resource to anyone with questions, comments, or ideas related to diversity and inclusion on JETLaw.

 

–Eryn N. Terry.

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