WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges made marriage equality the law of the land, but much remains to be done to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans. The Human Rights Campaign is at the forefront of those efforts and Womble Carlyle is a proud supporter of the HRC.
On June 28, the HRC’s Rob Falk and Collen Kutney joined the firm for a discussion on current legal challenges facing the LGBTQ community at the federal, state and local levels. Falk serves as the HRC’s General Counsel, while Kutney is the organization’s State and Municipal Program Manager.
“There are many areas where we are still pushing for full equality,” Falk said. Some of these include:
- Workplace equality;
- Public accommodations, particularly restrooms. “It really is a safety issue for members of our community,” Falk said;
- Harassment of LGBTQ youth at schools;
- Banning conversion therapy; and
- Hate crimes against LGBTQ people, who disproportionately are targets of such violence.
Falk and Kutney also discussed some of the hot-button litigation and legislation that could impact the LGBTQ community.
One of the key cases is "Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College," in which the Seventh Circuit has ruled that Title VII employment protections apply to sexual orientation.
The Supreme Court recently remanded "Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board" to the Fourth Circuit. This case involves restroom rights for transgender students under Title IX.
In "Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell," the courts must decide if religious healthcare providers can deny patient care under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Kutney said this is one of several pending cases in which religious liberty laws are at odds with legal protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Finally, the Sixth Circuit is considering "EEOC v. Harris Funeral Home," in which a funeral home employee was fired for being transgender.
“We expect these cases will be resolved at the Supreme Court level,” Kutney said.
At the legislative level, Falk and Kutney said the HRC is opposing the proposed First Amendment Defense Act, which they said would give businesses and institutions broad license to deny services. The proposed Russell Amendment would do the same for federal contractors, and the HRC is working to fight that as well.
Falk noted that for the past three years, Womble Carlyle has earned a perfect score of 100 on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. The HRC Corporate Equality Index measures corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality.
Falk and Kutney’s presentation took place live in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office and was broadcast to the firm’s other offices. The event was presented by the firm’s Diversity Committee as part of the Diversity Speaker Series.