Long Island Case Plays Key Role in Supreme Court Ruling LGBT Workers Protected From Discrimination

David Kilmnick holds up a photo of Donald Zarda at the Hauppauge office of the Long Island LGBT Network on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. Long Island Press photo

The U.S. Supreme Court cited the case of a man who claimed Long Island Skydive fired him for being gay in the top court’s ruling that extend federal anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The case involved Donald Zarda, who sued the former owners of the Calverton-based skydiving company arguing that his firing violated discrimination laws. The company’s former owners countered that Zarda was fired for making a customer feel uncomfortable and appealed to the highest court in the land.

“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII,” the court majority ruled in a 6-3 ruling, in which Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion. “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

The Zarda case is one of three LGBT discrimination cases that the Supreme Court heard on the issue. 

The second case involved a transgender woman who claimed that she was fired from her job at a Michigan funeral home after telling her boss that she was transitioning — a case that she won and a Cincinnati federal appeals court affirmed. The third case involved a Georgia man who argued that he was fired from his Clayton County job for being gay, although in his case, he lost his lawsuit and a federal appeals court in Atlanta also ruled against him.

In the Zarda case, he claimed that he was fired by the now-defunct skydiving company due at least in part to his sexual orientation. A federal trial court in New York, applying precedents from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, rejected his Title VII claim. The Court of Appeals, however, in an en banc hearing of the full Second Circuit bench, overruled numerous of its earlier precedents and found that the Title VII claim should not have been dismissed since that law applies to sexual orientation discrimination.

After initiating his lawsuit, Zarda died in a skydiving accident, and the case had been carried forward by his estate.

-With Gay City News. For more on this story, visit gaycitynews.com

Related Story: Long Island LGBT Discrimination Case Goes Before U.S. Supreme Court

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