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LGBTQ Advocates Laud SCOTUS Decision, Say N.M. Workers Face Discrimination Despite Protections

Ted Eytan via Flickr
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Rainbow flag flying in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Monday that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex, applies to sexual orientation and gender identity as well. While New Mexico already protects LGBTQ workers under state law, advocates here say the decision is still an important step. Despite legal protections, LGBTQ New Mexicans continue to face workplace discrimination. 

The high court’s decision means that the estimated 3.9 million LGBTQ workers who live in one of the 28 statesthat does not protect employees against discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity are now protected. 

The importance of the high court’s decision, in which two conservative justices sided with the court’s four liberal members, isn’t lost on Adrian Carver, Executive Director of Equality New Mexico. “It’s a landmark moment for legal equality,” Carver told KUNM.

In New Mexico, LGBTQ employees were already protected under the state’s Human Rights Act, and a state bill that passed unanimously last year extended it to small businesses. “That’s an indication of where New Mexico is at on all of these issues,” Carver said of the overwhelming support for the 2019 bill in the legislature. “And I’m glad to see the rest of the country catching up.”

But policy can only do so much. “In New Mexico we experience legal equality,” Carver said, “but the truth is – and especially for trans women of color – our communities don’t experience lived equality.” 

Carver says his organization still gets calls from LGBTQ New Mexicans who say they’ve experienced discrimination at work, including hearing slurs or being fired. The U.S. Transgender Survey shows Native American, Black, and multiracial trans women are the most likely to lose a job because of their gender identity or expression. 

If you believe you’ve been discriminated against at work because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you can contact Equality New Mexico, the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, or New Mexico Legal Aid. You can also file a claim directly with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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