Rutledge signs onto brief asking the Supreme Court to rule it is legal to fire LGBTQ people

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has signed on to a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 23 asking the court to rule against three individuals who had been fired for being LGBTQ. The three cases include the first transgender civil rights case to be heard by the high court.

“Once again, Attorney General Rutledge has shown that she puts politics before Arkansans and is out of touch with the majority of Arkansans who believe that no one should be fired because of who they are,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas legal director and interim executive director. “If President Trump and our state Attorney General get their way, Arkansans, including children, will be put at risk of being denied health care, kicked out of their homes, and fired from their jobs.”

The employees in these cases, including ACLU clients Aimee Stephens who was fired for being transgender and Don Zarda who was fired for being gay, have argued that discrimination against LGBTQ people is unlawful sex discrimination. A number of federal appeals courts have said that the Civil Rights Act and other federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination apply to LGBTQ people, as have dozens of state and district courts.

Evan Young, President of the Transgender American Veterans Association and Arkansan, stated: “TAVA condemns the actions of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for signing onto the brief that allows open discrimination against LGBTQ persons. Our organization works daily with transgender veterans, and we see the bias and discrimination that can arise from bigoted persons. Having a law that would condone such behavior is barbaric and nonsensical. LGBTQ persons are hard-working and deserve a work environment without fear of reprisal by termination solely based upon their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

“This extreme and harmful action is out of step with Arkansas families and businesses, who overwhelmingly support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people,” said Krystopher Stephens, director of the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition. “This is a cruel, unnecessary attack on LGBTQ Arkansans that does nothing to protect Arkansans and our rights, nor does it do anything to create jobs, grow our economy or attract the next-generation businesses our state needs to thrive.”  

Earlier this year, 206 major corporations signed a “friend of the court” brief telling the U.S. Supreme Court that LGBTQ people should continue to be protected from discrimination.

“With the Trump Administration’s relentless attacks on LGBTQ equality, the need to pass the Equality Act to provide comprehensive, express federal protections for LGBTQ people nationwide is greater than ever,” said Dickson. “Federal law doesn’t currently prohibit sex discrimination in some critical areas, like public accommodations and federally-funded programs so, no matter what the Supreme Court says, we also will need Congress to act to provide such protections for LGBTQ people and for all women.”

The ACLU of Arkansas has worked tirelessly to protect the rights of LGBTQ Arkansans. In 2017, the ACLU of Arkansas joined City of Fayetteville’s case challenging the constitutionality of the Arkansas law (Act 137 of 2015) intended to nullify local civil rights protections for Arkansans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. In 2011, the organization successfully struck down Act 1, a ballot initiative that prohibited fostering or adoption of children by unmarried couples.

The cases will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on October 8.

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