After the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, activists in Louisiana had to remind people that the fight for equality was not over.
“We always echoed that ‘You can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday,'” says SarahJane Guidry, executive director of Forum for Equality, headquartered in New Orleans.
On Monday, the court changed that, ruling that discrimination against gay and transgender workers is illegal under Title VII. The ruling puts an end to a 30-year battle in state houses and Congress for equality in the workplace.
But the fight for full equality — in public accommodations, adoptions, housing, and so on — still goes on.
“In Louisiana, you can still be evicted. You can still be denied accommodation,” Guidry said. “It’s definitely a victory that highlights how discriminatory policies are still pervasive in Louisiana and the South.”
Before Monday morning, only 22 states prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, generally on the West Coast, in the upper Midwest, and in the Northeast. Across the South, and in the Plains states, no such protections existed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 1,868 complaints of LGBTQ discrimination in employment in 2019.
Georgia is one of three states without a non-discrimination law for any group, said Eric Paulk, deputy director of Georgia Equality.
“While today’s decision is great and monumental, we still have a lot of work that we need to do here in Georgia,” he said. “Under federal law, folks can still be discriminated against in hospitals, colleges, adoption agencies” and other venues.
He said it will take work to see that the court’s ruling on Monday is enforced. And his organization continues to push for a comprehensive non-discrimination law in the state. Many of the major employers in Georgia — including Coca-Cola — have been allies in that fight, Paulk said.
“We would like for there to be more support from smaller businesses,” he said.
Paulk also noted that the ruling comes amid widespread protest — especially in the Atlanta over the weekend — against police violence against the Black community.
“The legal rights of all LGBT folks can’t be secured until we end the systematic ways in which racism oppress black people,” he said.