Several hundred people protested in front of the Supreme Court on October 8 as it heard oral argument on the issue of exactly what is sex discrimination in employment.
“Sex” is one of the protected categories in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment.
The Court agreed to hear three cases on whether Title VII protects gay, lesbian and transgender employees after three Circuit Courts of Appeal made conflicting decisions.
In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia the Eleventh Circuit found that Title VII does not include sexual orientation. The opposite conclusion was reached by the Second Circuit in Altitude Express v. Zarda. In Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC Anthony Stephens had worked for a funeral home for six years. After he informed his employer that he was transitioning into a women, Aimee was fired. The EEOC found sex discrimination, the District Court disagreed, and the Sixth Circuit reversed.
Supporters of LGBTQ rights came from all over. Eddie Reynoso flew in from San Diego on Friday, October 4. The Founder & Executive Director of the Equality Business Alliance camped out on the sidewalk in front of the Court in a chair. Others joined him on Sunday, where they watched the anti-Kavanaugh demonstration without leaving their place in line. Each day the Court is in session it allows the first fifty people in line to take seats inside to watch the proceedings as long as they like. Those who come afterwards are allowed in to watch for a few minutes before another group is brought in.
Many of those who were at the Supreme Court for the anti-Kavanaugh demonstration on October 6 stayed for the LGBTQ action on October 8.
Buses arriving Tuesday morning deposited their riders at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, which is two blocks from the Supreme Court.
Standing outside the church is its pastor, the Rev. Mike Wilker. He is flanked by the Rev. Andrew Bennett on his right and the Rev. Wendy von Courter on his left. They came from Massachusetts. Rev. Bennett is the youth pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Lynn, MA. Rev. von Courter is the senior pastor at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead, MA. He came to provide support. She came to be arrested.
Protestors were given signs, food, and instructions on committing civil disobedience, if they chose to do so.
From there they joined the protestors already at the Supreme Court.
In the decade that Title VII was written, committing civil disobedience had major consequences. Today it’s something of a right of passage. Some protestors under 18 brought a parent with them in order to participate in CD because police will only release juveniles into the custody of a parent. Despite the overall youth of the crowd, there were many grey-hairs among the protestors; fewer among those arrested.
Pride at Work, an official constituency group of the AFL-CIO, e-mailed its activists to rally at 8:00 a.m. on the steps of the Supreme Court. It didn’t last long. When the police found two unattended packages on the sidewalk, everyone was moved two blocks away, including protestors, lawyers, those waiting in line to go inside, and counter protestors.
It was mid-morning before they were allowed back on the sidewalk in front of the Court. Barricades kept them away from the steps.
There were only a couple dozen counter-protestors but they too came early. Half a dozen stood on a corner with signs saying “GOD STILL HATES FAGS” that quoted scripture.
A different dozen joined the rally with signs saying “SEX NOT GENDER.” They were mostly ignored.
As is usual when oral arguments in controversial cases end, lawyers and parties for both sides gathered on the Plaza for a press conference.
Credentialed media were the only ones allowed up the steps.
After the rally ended, about 150 people sat in the street in front of the Supreme Court asking to be arrested.
The Capitol Hill police obliged them. Each officer was given ten colored armbands to put on the wrists of arrestees after collecting IDs from each one.
The numbers and composition of the group in the street shifted a bit as people changed their minds both ways.
Once the arresting officer approached with armbands, the decision was made.
Each group of ten was escorted across the street onto a pathway to the Capitol. There they waited until they could be processed. Their IDs were returned. They were told when and where to pay, or given a court date if they wanted to contest the arrest.
At the end of the rally 132 people were arrested for blocking the street.
Copyright © 2019 Jo Freeman