JONESBORO — Federal civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender workers, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case centered on a lawsuit filed by a former Clayton County employee.
The landmark ruling will extend protections to millions of workers nationwide and is a defeat for the Trump administration, which argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that bars discrimination based on sex did not extend to claims of gender identity and sexual orientation.
The 6-3 opinion was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices.
The High Court heard arguments in Bostock v Clayton County in October. Former Clayton County CASA volunteer coordinator Gerald Bostock filed the lawsuit after he was fired in June 2013, alleging that he was fired on a pretext after “powerful people” in Clayton County found out that he is gay. Bostock was fired a few months after he signed up to play with an Atlanta gay softball league.
In a virtual press conference Monday sponsored by Georgia Equality, Bostock, 56, said he was elated by the court’s decision.
“I’ve been looking forward to this moment for quite a while,” he said. “And I’m thrilled and proud that I’ve been part of this journey and have been able to contribute to this historic moment today.”
Bostock, who now lives in Atlanta, had claimed that “in May 2013, during a meeting with the Friends of Clayton County CASA Advisory Board, where his supervisor was present, at least one individual made disparaging comments about Mr. Bostock’s sexual orientation and identity and participation in the softball league.”
The following month, Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske told WSB that Bostock allegedly had spent Superior Court funds for CASA on meals at Cowtippers and F.R.O.G.S., two Midtown restaurants popular with the gay community, as well as on sponsoring his softball team. Bostock was fired June 3. The reason given was “conduct unbecoming of a county employee.”
Teske turned over the results of an audit to then-Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson, but no charges were filed. Bostock filed an EEOC complaint, stating, “I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my sex (male/sexual orientation).”
Bostock said that the restaurant bills were legitimate work expenses. “I did take people to bars and restaurants,” Bostock previously told the Clayton News-Daily. “That was part of my job. That’s part of volunteer recruitment,. I would ask people where would they like to go so that I could talk to them about the CASA program. Some people would want to go to Ruby Tuesdays or Golden Corral – even Chick-fil-A. Those establishments were never scrutinized, or those expenditures were never questioned. It’s the establishments that had gay rainbow flags, those are the ones that came under scrutiny. Those are the ones that ultimately resulted in me being fired, which tells me I’m fired because I’m gay.”
Bostock’s attorney, Brian Sutherland, said Bostock’s job performance was not the issue, noting Bostock had achieved 100% coverage for clients in CASA’s child advocate program.
“The timeline tells you everything you need to know. He was in his position for over 10 years,” Sutherland said. “He was showered with praise and accolades for running one of the best programs in Georgia. In fact, he received an award for Georgia CASA Program of Excellence. And he was fired only after the county learned that he’s gay.”
County Attorney Jack Hancock argued the case on behalf of Clayton County.