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A Texas Republican – yes, a Texas Republican – just came out with an infallible argument why Supreme Court must protect LGBT workers

Nick Duffy November 20, 2019
Former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus

Former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus (Creative Commons photo/David Martin Davies)

Joe Straus, the former Republican Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, has publicly come out in support of LGBT+ rights protections.

The Republican politician, who served until January as one of the most powerful Republican leaders in the GOP-dominated state, penned an article for Newsweek revealing his surprising stance.

Straus, who led the Texas House for a decade, spoke out as the US Supreme Court prepares to rule on whether existing civil rights laws provide federal protections to LGBT+ people.

Texas Republican: Discrimination against LGBT+ people has a human cost

He wrote: “The Supreme Court should reaffirm these protections for our LGBTQ neighbours, who deserve the same opportunity as everyone else to be judged on their merits, and to work, earn a living and contribute to their communities.

“This may not be a common public position for a Texas Republican politician, but it reflects majority opinion in the state, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats, and people of every race and every major faith tradition.”

Explaining his stance, Straus said: “Over the years, I have watched Texans grow and learn and change on LGBTQ rights.

“I’ve gone through that learning and growth myself, especially in recent years, when we forged a diverse coalition—from the business community to faith leaders to law enforcement—to push back against wrongheaded efforts to discriminate against LGBTQ people.”

As Speaker, the politician was responsible for blocking some of the worst excesses of anti-LGBT legislation in the state, including a ‘bathroom bill’.

Texas Republican House Speaker Joe Straus killed a bathroom bill
Texas Republican House Speaker Joe Straus killed a bathroom bill (Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)

Of the Supreme Court case, he explained: “The cases now before the Supreme Court deal specifically with discrimination in the workplace, where the economic impacts are clear: Discrimination can shatter morale, harm productivity and contribute to higher employee turnover.

“But the human cost is real, too: Discrimination can strip people of their pride and rob them of the opportunity to do good work and earn a living for their families.

“In these cases, respect for our common humanity and for the dignity of every individual should prevail.”

Trump administration argues in favour of discrimination

Straus’ position puts him at odds with the Trump administration, which has intervened in the Supreme Court battle to argue that discrimination laws do not afford any protections to people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Trump administration’s amicus brief argues: “An employer who discriminates against employees in same-sex relationships thus does not violate Title VII [discrimination rules] as long as it treats men in same-sex relationships the same as women in same-sex relationships.”

The three cases under joint consideration by the court revolve around three employees who were fired from their respective jobs for being LGBT+.

The first case, Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, concerns Donald Zarda, who was fired from his job as a skydiving instructor because he is gay.

The second, Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, concerns Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who was sacked from her job at a funeral parlour after transitioning.

The third case, Bostock v. Clayton County, revolves around Gerald Bostock, a child welfare services coordinator who was sacked for joining a gay softball league.

More: Gay, LGBT, Republican, supreme court, Texas

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