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tv   LGBTQ Rights Workplace Discrimination Discussion at National Press Club  CSPAN  October 9, 2019 6:19am-7:00am EDT

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with gay and transgender rights. the plaintiff and one of them is a gay man who was fired from his job as a child welfare services court nader -- coordinator. he was joined by his attorneys after the oral argument to discuss how the case got to the supreme court, how the justices responded to the argument, and what the decision could mean for lgbtq rights. >> good afternoon, everyone. my name is thomas brewer, i'm a former president of the national press club. thank you for being here this
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afternoon, i'm looking forward to the discussion. i promise to be 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 because of his sexual 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 friends to join a gay softball league. the fascinating part of this 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
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protects americans of lgtbq, but the 11th circuit did not. 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 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
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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 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. 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.
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in 1989, the 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 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 persisted 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 supreme court decisions and reach the conclusion that sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination that violates the civil rights act. this decision was followed by the seventh circuit in a case called highly, and in the second
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circuit by another case that was consolidated with our case. there is a circuit split, as we point out, that is why we need a uniform interpretation of the law that sexual orientation is covered sex discrimination because there are many states where lgtbq 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. >> thank you all for being here. this is a great opportunity and i'm very appreciative.
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i'm very appreciative. this is allowing me the opportunity to paint my own portrait, to not have it painted by someone else, especially in such a negative light. my name is gerald bostock. i 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 compromised for the mere fact 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. i lost my livelihood. i even lost my medical insurance
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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.
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it is a shame that we are having these conversations in 2019, but somebody needs to confront this head-on. i was willing to do that, because i 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.
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>> 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 brian mentioned. what the situation is screaming out for is a uniform interpretation of the federal law that protects lgtbq employees across the country. when states have not passed various laws, our position in congress has already done that. they have already protect workers like gerald saying don't discriminate on the basis of sex. many man is only a gay because he is a man attracted to other men, therefore when an employer asked on the basis of an employee's sexuality, that employer has acted on the basis theex to in terms of
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arguments today, we believe that they are firmly rooted into the plain language of title vii and as ryan mentioned, the court's interpretation of title vii so we believe our position is the correct one and it is fully consistent with the principles that any court looks at in interpreting a statute. it is fully consistent with those principles. >> it is hard to tell where justices are. how do you feel it went today, what did you face from the left and the right flank of the court ? >> it was a very active court. the questions were typically both quite probing and quite responsive to the issues.
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there were references to opposing taking during counsel's arguments. we were delighted to have a tremendous advocate in our case. merrick garland did -- >> gerald, talk to me, but congratulations on surviving first, 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.
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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 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. what the court 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
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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 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 instructor who lit a female skydiver know he was gay. he was fired. he brought suit alleging he was discriminated against on the
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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. >> 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? >> most of the justices engaged 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, it applies.
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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 forbidden. >> we are a block away from the white house. this comes down to the
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definition of sex. bill clinton and the whole question, but is sex orientation or sex? >> i don't think that is the question. the way we argued is that sex is 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. if i were a woman -- a woman attracted to a man, i would not be discriminated against. only if i'm a man. it is sex 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
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and ask questions. what have you heard from people who are lgbtq and people who are 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. please keep it to two questions and not elaborate too long. any questions?
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that makes it easy. wait for the microphone if you could. >> do you think you have the chance to get your old job back? >> and do you want your old job back? >> if you're asking if i would like to return to the job that 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. it is rewarding also, but i'm working with adults instead of 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.
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>> do you have a follow-up question? >> [indiscernible] >> maybe you can help me with this. with this go beyond workplaces from a nation if the court sided with you? does it have other implications 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. aree are the tory us as we 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. has gerald noted, this issue is bigger. this fight for equality and fair treatment has been going on much longer than six years, and it
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will continue regardless of how the supreme court resolves this issue. -- employment -- today, the issue was 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 here we are just days away from the university, the 21st anniversary of the horrific
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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 chief justice 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
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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 be changes to other sex-based employment policies. there are legal reasons why some 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 living like everyone else.
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>> 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 gaps. state law may offer remedies
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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. >> we talked 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 kid who was bullied. how does it feel being in the 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
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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 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. braves.pulling for the >> i should have recognized that. gentlemen, talk to me about going forward. we had the baker case -- the cake baker. there is a lot of these steps that have been taken.
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first there was discrimination in the workplace and services. how does this shakeout? >> as i mentioned a moment ago i 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. advocates like gerald are 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
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it presents itself and put a stop to this because it is simply un-american. >> i will not ask you for your opponent's argument, but the 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 governments unsure of how to deal with lgbtq situations? >> let people do their jobs and based judgment on how well they do their jobs and nothing else. that is the answer. >> you are working with adults. i there was no prohibition of you going back to another locality will 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
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position. i was blackballed because people heard the story. the false information my former employer was putting out there. my portrait was 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
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their sexual orientation. do you have a sense statistically how pervasive this problem is in the united states and whether there are certain regions where this happens more than others or is it across the map? >> generally right now, as they have noted, whether an employee is protected is contingent on the geographic draw. are you residing in a state with a robust law for protection? are you protected under title vii? if you don't have a forum or an
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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. >> we were grateful to have a lot of americans support. a lot of organizations were giving specific information about how folks lose job and suffer discrimination in the workplace.
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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 law and it's a drain on the resources to help people who are displaced or need social services because of discrimination. 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
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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. in a larger sense we all lose when it infests the workplace because we are all deprived on a daily basis.
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>> talk about the cost of bringing a case to the court. not everyone has the resources. i'm assuming you law firm was very supportive. what kind of resources were available? i'm guessing you are not paying for this out-of-pocket. >> i will let you take that. >> he 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 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. those rights in the law enforced and be meaningless -- would go enforced and be meaningless. >> tell me what it felt like to
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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 overwhelmed by the history, the beauty of the building and what that means for us as a country. which is why i put positivity out into the universe. i am confident we will move forward. i have faith in the judicial system.
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i have faith in the process our forefathers put in place rest. i hope that answers your question. >> the wow factor is always good. tell me how you think this will rollout. it will be a month before the court issues an opinion. 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. >> 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.
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>> it will be a 9-0 decision. we hope. >> gerald, you have the stage for a moment. would you like to send a message out to those facing similar circumstances like yourself? >> absolutely. 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
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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 kids? the message i hear is that they lost a positive role model when
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the county fired me, but it tells those children their lives no matter. what about all the great people 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 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 different dissipates in a, and thank you. we are adj >> here is a look at what is live wednesday on c-span.
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our campaign 2020 coverage includes joe biden holding a town hall in new hampshire at 12:45 p.m. at the same time on c-span 2, there is a discussion on u.s. policy toward russia and ukraine with david kramer, a former state department official with the george w. bush administration and later in the day, ireland's ambassador to the u.s. talks about brexit and the future of u.s.-u.k. elections. oncoming up this morning 8:00ington journal," at a.m., a discussion on three supreme court cases this term regarding deployment -- employment discrimination with lambda legal's gregory nevins. and we will talk about pennsylvania's role as a battleground state with joseph morris of mercyhurst university and republican congressman mike


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