School of Nursing

June 17, 2020

Another Step Towards Ending Discrimination

Until Monday afternoon, it was legal in more than half the states in this country to fire someone for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual. That ended with a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling banning such discrimination as a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Title VII).

Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, said

A statutory violation occurs if an employer intentionally relies in part on an individual employee’s sex when deciding to discharge the employee. Because discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex, an employer who intentionally penalizes an employee for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII. There is no escaping the role intent plays: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decision-making.

I am pleased to say that the Supreme Court’s ruling will require absolutely no adjustments to the employment (or admission) practices of the School of Nursing. We stand, solidly, for equity and nondiscrimination as a matter of policy and practice.

While this is a landmark ruling for LGBTQ employees everywhere, it also serves as a reminder that establishing laws demanding equity does not in and of itself create equity. As a school, as a university, and as a profession we need to be aware of the places where thinking and beliefs and behavior do not align with ideals.

As healthcare professionals, any kind of discrimination is a barrier to providing optimal healthcare. We cannot afford either discrimination at either the institutional or the personal level. Institutional discrimination denies us the diversity that enables patients to see they are being cared for by people with whom they identify. And personal discrimination prevents us from having equity of empathy for both patients and colleagues.

The Supreme Court’s dramatic ruling is an important step forward toward a goal that we all must reach.