Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin joined an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by 18 Attorneys General, arguing that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The Attorneys General argue that their States have strong interests in protecting their citizens against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The lack of nationwide recognition that Title VII bars such discrimination blocks the full protection of LGBTQ workers – particularly given divisions between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which takes the position that Title VII protects workers from sexual orientation) and the federal Department of Justice (which has taken the opposite position).
The brief was filed late yesterday, on National Coming Out Day.
"While Rhode Island is a leading state in offering protections to the LGBTQ community, there are still other states that have laws that discriminate against these individuals. It is important that we stand up for what is right and stand with those who are discriminated against based on their sexual orientation," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
The brief was filed by the Attorneys General of NY, CA, CT, DE, HI, IA, IL, MA, MD, MN, NM, OR, PA, RI, VA, VT, WA, and DC.
"Employment discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers not only deprives them of important economic opportunities—it also stigmatizes their most intimate relationships and thus 'diminish[es] their person-hood,'" the Attorneys General write.
Even in States like Rhode Island that have laws barring sexual-orientation discrimination in the workplace, "Title VII plays a crucial complementary role by covering individuals not subject to the State's laws—for instance, federal employees or residents who work in another State—and by making available both the federal courts and a federal enforcer, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), to police invidious discrimination based on sexual orientation."
The case, Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, involves Jameka Evans, a security guard at a Savannah hospital who was harassed at work and forced out of her job because she is a lesbian. Evans' petition seeks a nationwide ruling that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates Title VII.