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tv   LGBTQ Rights Workplace Discrimination Discussion at National Press Club  CSPAN  October 8, 2019 1:21pm-2:05pm EDT

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of the democratic party and progressives. where have you seen that? guest: i have seen that all over. i've seen it at politico, the new york times. every month brings a story, from june onward that this supposed truce, which probably never was a formal truce. it's true that before she decided to declare her candidacy warren went to see bernie and they had some kind of discussion. -- you good afternoon everyone. my name is thomas brewer, i'm a former president of the national press club. thank you for being here this afternoon, i'm looking forward to the discussion. nicer than the associate justices were in interrupting when they made their arguments. we are here because of this gentleman to my left, gerald bought stock who lost his job his sexuala --
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orientation. he was an award-winning child welfare advocate in the casa program in clayton county, georgia. he took the program to unprecedented levels of success and he's making a difference in the lives of neglected children in his community, all of that changed when the county learned that he was gay. he's been encouraging his --a gay o join ak softball league. of thisinating part case and we will learn about how the supreme court arguments went this morning, goes back to the civil rights act of 1964. the law protects americans from workplace discrimination, the appeals court has apparently splintered on this, the second and seventh circuit ruled it protects americans of lgtbq, but the 11th circuit did not.
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this is how it will run, i will let them speak for a little bit and tell us how the arguments went and the case, then i will ask a few questions and turn it over to the arguments. -- the audience. i beg you to ask a twitter like question, we don't want sermons from the audience, and identify yourself as you do so. gerald? do you want to start off? and i'm sorry i did not introduce brian and thomas, the attorneys in the case. >> thank you, and thank you to the national press club for having me. it's a momentous day, i have to apologize, we were coming out of the court and there were so many people who were demonstrating in trying to raise their voices in support of the quality -- of equality. it was a great thing to see and it took some time to get over here. i want to say a couple of things about how the law got to where it is now and why we are in the supreme court.
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essentially, here's how it goes, in 19 succeed for congress passed a law that banned employers from relying on sex to make employment decisions. we made the argument before the court that this is all you need to know when you think about an employer making a decision about sexual orientation, you have to think about a person's sex to determine their sexual orientation. but what happened after that was that there were a few lower court decisions which said that sexual orientation was not covered. these were decisions that did not dig deeply into that issue. then something like a game of telephone, some of the court decisions were repeated by others in time went by and there was a thought that sexual orientation was not covered. in 1989 supreme court issued a decision in a case called price waterhouse, it found that sex stereotyping was a form of sex discrimination and violated the
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civil rights act. that's another argument we make in this case, punishing a person for failing to conform to a stereotype of who they should be attracted to or partnered with the because of their sex is sex stereotyping. nevertheless, some courts in believing wrongly that sexual orientation is not covered. in two thousand 15, the equal employment opportunity commission issued a thoroughly looked into the legal matter, in light of several simply -- supreme court decisions and reach the conclusion that sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination that violates the act act.hts this decision was followed by the seventh circuit in a case called highly, and in the second circuit by another case that was consolidated with our case. split, as wercuit point out, that is why we need a
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uniform interpretation of the law that sexual orientation is covered sex discrimination because there are many states bq employees have no protection from work place discrimination and it's at a terrible cost, not only for the people who already scrim and against like gerald, but all of the people horse served by them in their places of employment. we think this is an important issue that affects many millions of people, tens of millions of people. we are very proud to represent gerald and to be here. and i want to pass it to gerald so he can talk about his background and how he got here. all for being here. this is a great opportunity and i'm very appreciative. this is allowing me the opportunity to paint my own portrait, to not have it painted
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by someone else, especially in such a negative light. my name is gerald bostock. . was fired for being gay if you asked me six years ago would you ever imagine this, that you would be sitting at the national press club in washington after just leaving the united states supreme court, the answer would be no. absolutely not. but i think more importantly, after decade of hard work advocating for child abuse and neglect victims in my community in atlanta, georgia, to have my hard work and success factomised for the mere that one day i decided to join a gay recreational softball league , to have that compromise because of that. to have it compromised because of homophobia, and let me share that when i was fired i was devastated. i lost my source of income.
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i lost my livelihood. i even lost my medical insurance at a time when i was recovering from prostate cancer. this was devastating to me. in the road here has been long and hard. we are here today, standing united, so we can bring an end to lgtbq workplace discrimination. into many states across this nation we can marry our partners on saturday or sunday, and be fired for that when we go to work on monday. we can be fired for joining a gay softball league. i am living proof of that. and that is wrong. homophobia is wrong. and any type of workplace discrimination is unacceptable. a shame that we are having these conversations in 2019, but somebody needs to confront this head-on. i was willing to do that,
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because i did not want anyone -- don't want anyone to experience what i have had to live through for the last six years of my life. i'm happy to share with you that i did beat cancer. i am now a cancer survivor. i firmly believe that together we can beat this very important issue. nobody should go to work fearful that they could lose their job because of who they are, how they identify, or who they love. plain and simple. thank you again for the opportunity to be here. this is really the first major case that the court has taken up this calendar. and it's telling because we have a new court with cavanaugh and gorsuch and we are still understanding where they are from. this is major that they took this out. so we can maybe get a resolution. >> absolutely, as gerald and
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brian mentioned. what the situation is screaming out for is a uniform interpretation of the federal lgtbq country.ts when states have not passed laws, our position is congress has already done that, already protected workers like gerald by saying don't discriminate on the basis of sex. well, at the risk of stating the obvious, a gay man is only a gay man because he is a man who is attracted to other men. the an employer asks on basis of an employee's sexuality, the employer has acted on the basis of sex. in terms of the argument we have advanced today, we believe they are firmly rooted in the plain language of title vii, the
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statute. as brian mentioned, the court's interpretation of title vii. we believe our position is the correct one. and is fully consistent with principles that any court looks at and interpreting a statute. it is fully consistent with those principles. >> i have covered a lot of supreme court cases. it is hard to tell where the justices are. they are playing devils advocate. how did the arguments go for you? would you face on the left in the right flank of the court? >> it was a very active court. the questions were typically, as one would expect, both probing and quite responsive to the issues. there were references to the positions taken during a pencil counsel -- opposing counsel's argument.
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we had a tremendous advocate in this case, pam carlin of the law clinic you did an outstanding job in delivering the legal arguments and responding to the justices. >> congratulations on surviving cancer. that is a difficult thing to go through, and through this at the same time. talk to me about being the figure of a case like this. this is huge for tens of millions of americans. how does it feel to be thrust into this spot? >> it is exciting. at the same time motivating. it is also very humbling and very surreal. i did not ask for any of this. what i have learned through my journey is it is no longer just about me. because it does impact so many people across the country. that is why i was willing to carry the burden and take the
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fight as far as i needed to, which landed us here today in washington, d.c. >> you can talk about this. there is a scary side of this. says title vii does not protect people who are lgbtq? what happens? >> we won't stop the fight. congress can do something about that if the court does reach what we believe is the long decision. part of the argument made by the other side that congress is the branch of government that should deal with this, we believe that is complete the wrong. congress has done its job. it passed a law that banned employers from taking it into account for employment decisions. it is a common sense proposition. you cannot think about a person's sexual orientation
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without thinking about their sex. we are hopeful and optimistic the court will see that and make the right decision. we have to cross other bridges as we get there. >> there are a couple of plaintiffs in the case beyond gerald. can you talk to me about that? in the case consolidated with hours the employee was a man named donald zarda, a skydiving who lit a female skydiver know he was gay. he was fired. he brought suit alleging he was discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. he sadly passed away during the lawsuit. his sister and former partner have taken of the fight as the co-executors of his estate.
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can you give me a feel how you saw gorsuch, brett kavanaugh, how you got a feel for them today and in the questions they asked and where they might go in this case? engagedof the justices with the briefs and arguments. there are a lot of hypotheticals. if you have a woman in this situation and a man in this situation, is sex the reason for the difference in treatment? i think there are a lot of questions about the text of the statute. the court has been focused on the text of the statute, as it should be, and thinking about the fact sometimes you apply a statute and await that might not have been expected when passed. if it applies to your situation,
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it applies. that was the similar result in a case a few years ago in which a plaintiff alleged he was subjected to sex discrimination when he was arrested by a bunch of other men on an offshore oil rig. the supreme court held unanimously it was sex discrimination and a violation of title vii. it was written by the late justice antonin scalia, who said this was not the principal people. congress was not concern with this when it passed but that's no moment. it applied in any discrimination and statutory requirement is urban. -- forbidden. >> we are a block away from the white house. this comes down to the definition of sex. bill clinton and the whole sex orientation
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or sex? >> i don't think that is the question. sex is we argued is that sex with you are a man or woman. what is sexual orientation? i'm a man attracted to and partners with a man, for a woman who partners with other women. -- a woman woman attracted to a man, i would not be discriminated against. only if i'm a man. and the basic biological since we understand it to be. >> you cannot separate the concepts. you have to first look at sex. it simply does not follow. >> i will turn to the audience and ask questions. what have you heard from people who are lgbtq and people who are
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not? do you get love letters and hate mail at the same time? >> i've had a tremendous amount of support. not only from my family, my partner, my close circle of friends, some of which were in this room, and that helped keep you motivated to continue pushing forward. there are always some negative comments. i focus on the positive. i am not allowing that to overshadow the importance of what's happening here. >> i will turn to the audience from questions. identify yourself and your news outlet. two questions to and not elaborate too long. any questions? that makes it easy. wait for the microphone if you could. >> do you think you have the
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chance to get your old job back? >> and do you want your old job back? >> if you're asking if i would thatto return to the job was my passion working for children and advocating to ensure children have a voice during the juvenile court proceedings, absolutely. i miss working with kids. i'm a mental health counselor at a local hospital in the atlanta area. but i'mwarding also, working with adults and seven children. i do miss working with children, so yes. >> is that part of the case? i don't know the logistics. what they reinstate him or backpay? >> that is part of the remedy sought. >> do you have a follow-up question? >> [indiscernible] maybe you can help me with this. with this go beyond workplaces
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from a nation if the court sided with you? does it have other applications beyond somebody's job? >> i would say generally gerald mentioned his personal timeline of six years. that is a long time for anyone to have to carry this situation. victorious as we are consciously confident we will be -- cautiously confident we will be, that will allow gerald to present his evidence and put the county evidence to the test and clear his name. is gerald noted, this issue bigger. this fight for equality and fair treatment has been going on much longer than six years, and it will continue regardless of how the supreme court resolves this issue. today the issue was deployment
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under title vii -- employment under title vii. the battleground was supreme court, as it should be under the justice system. i can't help it acknowledge and remember hearing our just days away -- here we are just days away from the university, the 21st anniversary of the horrific hate crime against matthew shepard. this struggle goes on. the struggle continues. today is the workplace. our fight is for justice for gerald in the workplace. that recognition will be important and another step on the path in the fight for full equality. >> clear four or five years since the case that allows gay marriage. five years. there are a lot of cases coming towards the court. this is a big one. did you have a feeling about justice roberts -- chief justice
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roberts was coming down this? >> my impression was his questions were very probative. i can't tell you i have a prediction as to how he will come out on this issue. i can tell you that he was clearly very engaged in the argument. asked questions of both counsels getting to the heart of this issue. >> i want to circle back to something tom said. it's been years since matthew shepard was killed, but only a few weeks since a man in tennessee took his life because of shame about his sexual orientation after it was spread at his school. we have the violence against the lgbtq youth that are horrifying. this is an employment case and we are talking about discrimination against lgbtq
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people, but there is so much discrimination and stigma that people in this country. that is what we are fighting against as well. i want to speak about other issues related to this case which may come through. there was discussion today about some of the parade of horribles, legal arguing for the other side that this may come to pass and be a bad thing and therefore you should not take this interpretation of the law. the other side argues there will asedhanges to other sex-b employment policies. some are legal reasons why of those issues should be treated differently in a future case perhaps, but this case is about employment discrimination and whether or not an lgbtq person has the right to earn a
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living like everyone else. >> if we allow gay marriage, polygamy fully legal and all the bogeyman. a slippery slope. how would this affect state law? there are some states that have protected sexual orientation rights. how would this case affect some of this? >> it's important to note under a number of state laws, whether they be general fair employment practices type laws, or loss directed to this type of discrimination, for the lgbtq discrimination is covered, state laws are complementary or supplementary remedies. title vii divides a baseline of federal protection. there are employers who do not meet the minimum threshold to be protected under title vii. that's the time when robust a lot protection can fill the
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gaps. law may offer remedies that go beyond the title vii or standards of proof that are more employee friendly. we are not discounting the importance of state law. what this case was about is the fact that, as we have said, congress has spoken. congress has done its job. we need the supreme court to say there is uniform federal protection under title vii. about other people facing this situation. gerald, what does it feel like to be the symbol right now? when plaintiff is no longer with us. a suicide that happened with the young kitty was bullied -- kid who was bullied. how does it feel being in the
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spot? are the remedies to make it better for everyone? >> my hope is everyone will know that in talking about this issue, and for those people to know i am fighting for all of us. you will not have to walk through this alone. for whatever reasons others have not stepped up, that is not the issue here. i was willing to do it despite the fact i did not ask to do this. >> clayton county is not the rule. has been tough in your community? have you found support? >> through this process i had to leave the community. i had to sell my home. i lost contact with friends and colleagues i worked with. those were losses that were part of this ripple effect. the homophobic action taken against me because a joint they gave recreational softball league. the community i'm in now in atlanta is very supportive, very
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understanding. i am happy to be run that now. >> how is the league doing? >> they just have the world series. i had to step away but there was a possibility i might return after this gets settled and i can resume normalcy. >> the nationals may need you tonight if you're ready. i should have recognized that. gentlemen, talk to me about going forward. -- thethe baker case cake baker. stepsis a lot of these that have been taken. discrimination in the workplace and services.
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how does this shakeout? ago ii mentioned a moment think the struggle is ongoing. the issues continue to present themselves. the battleground was the workplace today. tomorrow another issue will present itself. they will continue to present themselves until the fight for lgbtq equality is over. gerald areike committed to that fight and will stay with that. we all have a duty to continue to find and continue to stand up regardless of the issue, regardless of the forum or where it presents itself and put a stop to this because it is simply un-american. not ask you for your opponent's argument, but the
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counties and governments across the country are worried about how they respond to the situation. do you think there may be guidance for some of these local unsure of how to deal with lgbtq situations? andet people do their jobs based judgment on how well they do their jobs and nothing else. that is the answer. >> you are working with adults. there was no prohibition of you going back to another locality and doing something different? >> there is not. the issue was when this happened i could not even get an interview and the child welfare industry over except a job position. i was blackballed because people heard the story. the false information my former employer was putting out there. mike portrait -- my portrait was
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painted in a negative light. it's important so i can clear my name and restore my reputation. they shattered it. >> one thing to add. gerald's case was dismissed earlier on in the process. we did not have the chance to go to trial. a large part of this fight is not necessarily anybody who says they have been fired for some reason -- he's not had the chance to prove it. we had not even got that opportunity yet. another question? >> not everyone who claims to be discriminated on his fired for their sexual orientation. do you have a sense statistically how pervasive this
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problem is in the united states and whether there are certain regions where this happens more than others or is it across the map? as theyally right now, , whether an employee is protected is contingent on the geographic draw. are you residing in a state with a robust a lot perfect -- law for protection? are you protected under title vii? if you don't have a forum or an avenue to vindicate your rights, i'm sure there are countless untold stories that have not been brought forward, countless wrongs that have not been righted. that is why we were before the court today, to give people the opportunity to present their case.
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we were grateful to have a lot of amicus support. a lot of organizations were informationfic about how folks lose job and suffer discrimination in the workplace. there are some dramatic increased statistical instances of that. and an increased incidence of all the things that come with the fired. increased incidence of the need for mental health treatment. and for social services. local governments and states filed a friend of the court brief as well saying we need uniform interpretation of the and it's a drain on the resources to help people who are displaced or need social services because of discrimination.
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we know people are affected by it. we note we need to do something about it. one brief we received in support was over 200 of the largest companies and employers in the united states. they recognized, as we recognized the value of a diverse workplace. the value of different perspectives in the workplace. the tremendous services and productivity gay and lesbian employees provide everyday. think about gerald's situation. this man moved mountains to serve at risk youth in his community. they lost incredibly dedicated and devoted advocate. he was one-of-a-kind. loselarger sense we all fests then
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workplace because we are all basis.d on a daily >> talk about the cost of bringing a case to the court. has theyone o resources. i'm assuming you law firm was very supportive. what kind of resources were available? payingssing you are not for this out-of-pocket. >> i will let you take that. >> he please the fifth. -- pleads the fifth. >> there are a lot of people who suffer work place discrimination and don't have resources to allow them to get their case to court. most of the federal, for many of the federal implement statues have an attorneys fees provision
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to allow a plaintiff was successful to have the other side pay for their attorneys fees when they prevail in court. it is tremendously important. there are some new people who cannot otherwise bring their cases to court. enforcedhts in the law and be meaningless -- would go enforced and be meaningless. >> tell me what it felt like to be in the court today. how did he feel to be in the courtroom? it is staged and dramatic. a little intimidating. >> i would describe it as the wow factor. i had the opportunity to go yesterday for a walk through and to see it and to experience that factor before today. we had enough to deal with walking and there this morning. yeah, i was impressed and
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overwhelmed by the history, the beauty of the building and what that means for us as a country. i put positivity out into the universe. i am confident we will move forward. i have faith in the judicial system. i have faith in the process our forefathers put in place rest. i hope that answers your question. >> the wow factor is always good. think this will rollout. it will be a month before the court issues an opinion. howdy think it plays out -- how do you think it will play out? >> it'll probably be summer time. >> it will be more than two months. >> gerald was hoping you would be two months.
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>> it is in the hands of the court now. i can simply say we feel confident in the argument we have made. we feel they are grounded in the text of the law and supreme court precedent, and very firmly so. we feel confident we have advanced the arguments we need to advance, not only because they support gerald's position but because they are legally correct. we certainly hope the court sees it that way is. >> you're hoping for better than 5-4. >> it will be a 9-0 decision. we hope. >> gerald, you have the stage for a moment. messageu like to send a out to those facing similar circumstances like yourself? >> absolutely.
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i'm fighting not just for myself but for everyone across the country. something i would like to point out is i am a victim. there are other victims in the process. if you look at it a little deeper, what about the children in clayton county that no longer have that child advocate? my understanding the program is no longer serving all the children. under my leadership we were able to a conference that. no other metro atlanta program was able to reach that. what about those children they going to court proceedings without that volunteer by their side? they have been re-victimized. what about the children in foster care today that identify as lgbtq? what kind of message has this action given to the group of
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kids? message i hear is that they lost a positive role model when the county fired me, but it tells those children their lives no matter. peopleout all the great i got to know in the gay recreational softball league never interested in volunteering that businesses refer to as the gay community in atlanta? i was recruiting volunteers for the softball league. i was securing financial sponsorship for not only my program but the state organization and other programs throughout the metro atlanta area. once again the message i here today from that wonderful group of people is you are not welcome different dissipates in a clayton county court program
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because of who you are, how you identify, or who you love. that is wrong. >> i hope to welcome you back on the court does decide. thank you for being here. thank you c-span for covering this. there is more information at, and thank you. we are adjourned. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [crowd talking]
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>> with the plaintiff at the u.s. supreme court case. looking at whether discrimination against an employee because of sexual orientation should be allowed. the court heard oral argument today and they will release the audio of the arguments this friday. we will bring you that argument friday night in our primetime lineup here on c-span. [crowd talking] >> i saw things about president trump's leadership style i had never seen in the fbi. i saw the way that his staff and advisors would sit at attention in a small road chairs gathered in front of the resolute desk. i saw the way he tried to himpulate me into inviting to speak at the hoover building that week. reflectively he
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came back with references about my wife's failed political campaign in the state of virginia in 2015, and consistently referred to would -- to it as that mistake i made. aaders don't -- this was not leader who was creating an environment of trust. these were obvious efforts to coerce me into a position, to take the loyalty i had over the course of my career and shifted to loyalty to a person rather than to an ideal and the constitution. >> you can watch all this event with former acting fbi director andrew mccabe tonight at 9:00 eastern on c-span. follow the coverage online at, or use the free c-span radio app. >> campaign 2020 coverage continues as president trump host a rally in minneapolis.
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live thursday at 8:00 eastern on c-span. watch anytime on, and listen free using the free c-span radio app. >> the chair of the house intelligence committee is adam schiff. he spoke about the trump administration's flakka u.s. ambassador gordon sondland from testifying at an impeachment inquiry today. then republicans give their response.


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