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Pacific’s Alumni Association hosts Lunch & Listen: LGBTQ+ Legal Rights in Post-Kennedy Era

U.S. Supreme Court makes historic decision protecting rights of LGBTQ+ community
Jun 23, 2020

In a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 last week that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian and transgender employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.

The decision is far reaching as prior to the ruling LGBTQ+ people could be fired from their jobs or faced discriminatory hiring practices without legal recourse in most states in the country. It is a huge victory for the LGBTQ community.

“I was as shocked and delighted by the ruling,” said Lawrence Levine, professor at University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law. “Even though the argument that ‘sex’ encompasses ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ is a sound one, I really thought persuading the largely conservative Supreme Court of that was likely a bridge too far.”

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a longtime professor at McGeorge, wrote most of the major decisions on gay rights during his tenure. One of those rulings was the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

“Justice Kennedy was the architect behind all of the Supreme Court’s pro-LGBTQ decisions up to and including providing the right to marry,” said Levine. “The two Trump appointees to the Supreme Court were both law clerks for Justice Kennedy. One, Justice (Neil) Gorsuch, wrote the opinion and the other, Justice (Brett) Kavanaugh, though dissenting, went to great pains to note he agreed with Kennedy’s language about recognizing the dignity of gays and lesbians.”

There are still more legal steps that need to be taken to continue protecting LGBTQ+ rights. Legislatively, Congress is working to pass the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination beyond employment, such as in housing and credit. The key disputes in the courts will likely involve the nature of religious exemptions to these non-discrimination laws.

To learn more about this ruling and LGBTQ+ legal rights, the Pacific Alumni Association is hosting a Lunch & Listen at 12:05 p.m. Thursday, June 25. Professor Levine will lead the discussion about the Supreme Court’s gay rights jurisprudence after Kennedy, including its recent ruling.

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