On June 15th, many LGBT people and their progressive allies let out a collective sigh of relief as the US Supreme Court ruled in their favor on the topic of anti-discrimination protections in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. No doubt, this is a good outcome for workers, though—like most liberal fixations—it is the offering of scraps instead of addressing the actual material needs of LGBT working people.
The ruling in question, Bostock vs Clayton County, Georgia, is a 6-3 decision in favor of Gerald Bostock and LGBT workers who face discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Bostock was an employee of Clayton County who was fired for “conduct unbecoming a county employee” after he joined a gay softball league and promoted it for volunteerism. The majority opinion, written by Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, stated that it is not legal for an employer to fire someone simply for being gay or being transgender based on their interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To liberal LGBT people, this ruling is a lovely example of bipartisan progress, as both Republican- and Democratic-appointed justices sided with LGBT people. Hoorah, love wins! Writing the majority opinion got Justice Gorsuch plenty of adulation and praise from liberal simps who are desperate to go high when they go low, and who exist within a fantasy world of returning to a glorious era of bipartisan consensus. It would seem that they somehow all got over their paranoia that these new justices would repeal gay marriage and return us to the dark ages. Even bad Cheeto man Dolan Drumpf stated that the ruling was “very powerful.” Tragically, the liberal masses—who prize identity and fielty to progressive causes as the key signifier of who is good and bad—have chosen to lick the boots of those who represent capitalism. Simply being fine with the gays doesn’t make you a comrade.
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As the culture war—which is fundamentally a class war, but that’s a topic for a different time—rolls on, the Supreme Court is treated as a battleground for issues like LGBT rights, gun control, and reproductive rights. When the liberal masses put their faith in an institution that serves entirely to legitimize private property and the interests of capitalists ingrained in the US constitution, they are giving greater deference to an institution that has consistently eroded labor rights and protections with limited public backlash owing to the veil of legalism and adherence to liberal norms. We must remember that this institution is the same one that gave us the devastating Janus ruling, which was all but the death rattle for the power of public-sector unions, by allowing non-members to enjoy all of the privileges of union membership without paying for it. Even in times when the ideological composition of the court was very different, they still consistently delivered labor-destroying decisions like Hoffman Plastic Compounds vs NLRB (which excluded undocumented workers from most labor protections and unionization) and NLRB vs Kentucky River Community Care (which codified the practice of classifying everyone as a “supervisor” in order to exclude them from unionization and collective bargaining). But they gave us gay marriage, right? Fire up the tattoo guns to get your RBG ink immediately!
While we can still celebrate this small victory (however milquetoast and mild it may be), we must not forget it does nothing for the millions of people who are unemployed—including, strangely, many LGBT people—or who cannot get a job in the first place. It also does nothing to prevent people from discriminating in silence against LGBT workers. As long as shitty bosses can find another excuse to fire the person and never mention their identity as a cause, it’s totally fine and totally legal. If the goal is to stop people from losing their jobs what we truly need is a universal guarantee of a job for anyone who wants one, as well as legislation to undo the substantial damage done to labor and unionization efforts by the likes of Taft-Hartley. When we no longer allow capital to maintain a pool of perpetually un- or under-employed labor to replace any troublemakers who dare ask for more, we give greater power to working people whose right to a dignified job and a negotiated wage are enshrined in law, but also backed up by robust union power. While it’s great to be happy about small wins, we must not ignore the class nature of the Supreme Court or to let it be a replacement for the more radical demands that will actually materially benefit LGBT workers.