SCOTUS hears cases on LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace

The Supreme Court will hear the cases of LGBTQ workers who claimed to have been discriminated against at their jobs because of their sex or sexual orientation.
27:59 | 10/08/19

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Transcript for SCOTUS hears cases on LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace
I'm Devin Dwyer at the Supreme Court can you be fired for being gay or transgender. In America that would question. The justices grappled with today. I'm not only fighting for myself. I'm work we're gonna make this hot. Gotten madness to do something about it what's at stake how the justices are likely to decide. This is probably the most consequential paints for LG BTQ let. Rights and civil rights of the Supreme Court will hear in my lifetime our team is here. To break it down costs the president's decision to pull US troops out of Syria and the latest. An impeachment fight here on Capitol Hill. Right now in the brief you. Everybody great to have you with us today likely several gets a thus breaking developments on impeachment. And the president's decision to pull most US troops back from the border in Syria coming up at first it was a momentous day. Here at the United States Supreme Court drawing significant protest out front. As you saw here even a couple of bomb threats earlier today the justices. Hearing for the first time publicly. Especially with this new conservative majority taking on this issue a gay rights today and key chart as here she was in the courtroom with me. Kate this was three cases of very significant stories involving transgender gay Americans who were discriminated against. Because they were who they are. That's right so DeVon in about half of the state there's actually no state or local law that protects you against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. So there isn't as big federal law the Civil Rights Act and how does a prohibition on sex discrimination. And the question is does dance prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity the court has never answer that question what is held. That marriage equality exists nationwide. There's no answer to this question. That the court is yet provide and it's about but there are wrestling with today if. Three human cases a considerable all of this there was a funeral home. Employee who was fired transgender woman from Michigan there isn't a skydiver. From New York State who lost his job after telling. It at a customer that he was gay and then there was the story of Gerald post stock. Which you brought you yesterday in the briefing a man from Georgia Clayton County child welfare services are coordinator he says after his employer learned he was gay he got to Gottesman. It's tea and yet these are all as you said really compelling through human stories at the heart of these cases. And to you heard a little bit about that but to be honest today the justices were kind of wrestling with these more abstract legal questions right so. How do you decide what statute that was passed in 1964. Should mean today right so. Probably people were thinking in 1964 about prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation just weren't theory that it's a question is. You know things have changed a lot in the intervening fifty years so should that justice is read this ordinance down shoot to include. This kind of protection or as some of the justices suggested is that really for congress to do and the porch essentially stay its hand. Let the democratic process run its course I don't of the questions at the wrestling. He was a really passionate debate you and I were in there we're also in the courtroom Terry Moran ABC news chief. National correspondent also a veteran of worked happy stirred great to have you join us good to be a little late while it's okay. You're busy man but what was your take to that your big take what today justices did seem inclined to want to protect. These Americans that they also really were grappling with the implications of this weekend. This is not as much as I thought though it was a legal discussion as it should be it is the Supreme Court but. These are some of the most divisive issues in our country right like a lot of conservatives. Feel it is part of what they think of as a culture war apt to change their understanding of America for a lot of people especially young people. Is the future this is the way life is going to be and he actually didn't get a lot of that in the court they were sticking to their knitting in a lot of ways with a couple of exceptions. One of them brought up by justice Neil courses. One of the trump appointees do you think would be as he often is kinda hard core conservative on this. But he sounded very. Certainly very empathetic. To that to the position of the two gay men who were fired in the transgender woman who was fired and his hesitancy was is this really our job. Something that he's. Gonna cost so much social upheaval should courts be doing. It get inside guys you saw the plaintiffs in this case are treated as news talk about trying to make it textual list argument. Not to get to Wheatley but those conservatives on the court had made. Such a stink over the years about sticking to the text of the law and in this case they said it's plain and simple they argued. Debt because of sex applies to people based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. Right so that's of these clinics are doing if you're fired because. You're a man and you're dating a man that's obviously discrimination because of sex and you don't have to look beyond just the words of his 1964 statute. To get to a victory at least that's what the plaintiffs are hoping and so you did see these kind of sometimes the ordinary roles in these cases were a little bit reversed and I agree with Terry. He was a little unexpected that this very conservative trump appointee Neal were six. Seem to be more open to the plaintiffs' argument and I think you might have anticipated going into. Chief Justice robber seemed at least a little bit open as well and of course you know all it takes I think the former liberal justices will almost certainly sign that these discrimination plaintiffs. So you just need to find one other vote in order to get to Ivan need to you can even get to six you know. I think going out of this coming out of this argument it's really anyone's guess how this is gonna come out. It's going to be a fascinating debates they let us because we're gonna get into some more of what we heard today inside one of the people in the courtroom today was in me Stephen she was that transgender woman who worked at a funeral home in Michigan. She told us yesterday just how she was fired from her job of which she had for six years and how it impacted her life pickle. You were. A professional at this funeral home in Michigan for years and years been a faithful employee. You like your colleagues yes you were praised lawyer boss yes. And then there was that day and 2013. For the latter tolls about bad bad experience. Let's back up a little bit. In 2012. Where all this started was. I've basically been living two lives. And it got to this point. He nearly impossible to keep doing man. And I almost took my home line. But in that instant. And ninety decisions. I liked me too much. And chose to live and stated. And that's when I started writing a letter. And it maybe six to eight months to. Come up with a version than analysts had he we. Explain what was going on in my life and where I was. And what I needed to do. When I gave you the letter. He ran his own them but it is. I think about it. Find few weeks later the same man. Handing me a letter that law. See me then they didn't need me anymore. And basically made me mad. 'cause here output good time here. And much anyway. And now we certainly don't need me. It was a devastating it wants. But he got me madness to do something about it. And the only thing I need do woods. He contacted an attorney and see where we stood. Now you have your day in court. Now we have it. Finally any of what's your message to Americans who don't understand. What it means to be transgender. And may struggle with. Employees like yourself in their own workplaces or struggle with what to do like your boss struggled with what would you save it. I think your secret is education. Don't understand it or you had general wrapping your mind around. The you're only here. Don't listen to what your friends is there anybody else he you're only searching. And making a point to you. Get to know what trends first. Good seeing you found out. We're not any different than new millennium. Way out won't saying things to be able to work and live and Sarah. Thank you so much. It's a pleasure mean. Amy Stephens bringing that case forward guys in large part she told me to educate people and it did seem to day that her attorneys were trying to educate. The justices that time who. Some of them seem to really grapple with this idea of gender identity. Certainly as you would tube not something that the drafters of that 1964 law had envisioned at that time but. They're really wondering how to apply that here in as stress this course it's mentioned a lot of Americans are really uncomfortable with this idea how do they account for that Terry. Was somehow more on the court if it looked like and it looked like there were a little uncomfortable in his. But it and and this is such an issue and issue at the abstract level which divides Americans. Pretty passionately. For what unites people and and it's such a wonderful and because of the bottom of all of these great cases in our history is somebody. Right and and to get to know them and doing their work deciding to make a change in their lives which they think is consistent with their values and they are. And they get fired and I and I kind of think as it was somebody said that one of the reasons the revolution in gay rights happened. Was because gay people came out and everybody in their workplace and their famine and we've transgender people she's right. You know it is about getting to know someone getting to know people that's not what the law works on talking. But it's feel like the lawyers were doing trying to do a little bit about public education. On meet the justices this morning terminology. But it was like I'm just a sportage as U cents and something about this amounts of social upheaval that might follow. And the lawyer for Amy Stephens action from the ACLU said. There are transgender -- in this building right now they're using the bathroom like everybody else there's no of people it's just people going about their lives so in a way. That was used as kind of a moment to do some educating of the justices and maybe the justices were not content and that's right there are a lot of people here at the court weren't always at the court. On a lot of activists and you know at the sky wasn't falling and so so some of that was going on even inside the courtroom. It's fascinating to watch Amy Stephens has one of the three cases today there were two cases involving gay men who. Say they were dismissed from their jobs because of their sexual orientation one of those was Donald starter he was in New York. Skydiving instructor who say is that wanna his clients after they did a jump complained to the bosses. That he had mentioned to her that he was gay at the time in the job he subsequently lost his job yes it died an accident. 124 teaming yesterday we caught up with his sister Melissa start and former partner William Moore. To hear his side in this case to. Do you remember that day when he lost his job and pretty positive volume is Sally and crash this woman complained so I was gay and now on fire what was that like I was at my desk at my office from the policy. And he was very access. And even told access there was no way to make up and to compensate for what it was losing. So that was financially it was what it was residents of about when it comes to the job is there's no way to do find another one in the season. Dime it was so devastated when he was fired that I think this would be his moments two strikes you make sure that not only. Waiting he'd be able they did. Justification. And everything back that he deserved but also to prevent this same. Lost have people been strips. As their jobs and their means there are no living Brad from happening other people he wanted to make sure that other Cubans suffer the same this. An action if the court she's a conservative majority court scary if they come out and in this case and save this and we don't support. Or condone discrimination against anybody can be as easy to Americans it's you know we just don't see it written into the law. All that make you feel what will that saves. It's goodness it's gonna mean bad they don't see us as an important class citizen. So they'll be disappointed that they don't still that we should be protected. But also I hope. That it's and that horse event were to happen that it would inspire. LG BT community to get behind their signatures and trying to be equality act passed which is stalled in the senate. Point and I think he really tell people to stand up and Q. Tonight hiding who you are at work each you have to be that mean anything if everybody speaks at a news realizes what an issue this is enhanced thing. It you know we will deal to keep her high rates of protection place. Perry hands offices or banks in this artisan Gilmore eye guys this is fascinating news center into the personal stories. But there was a lot of talk about the law about Congress's role in all of this for more on this conversation or bring in David Caplan joins us from New York is the author. The fascinating book the most dangerous branch inside the Supreme Court in the age I've Donald Trump peace somebody who had covered this court for a long time. For Newsweek David thank you so much for coming into this. Because it was a point that came up a lot today want to get your take on this idea that the conservatives are gonna have to really grapple with this. Notion of wanting to punch to congress and some of these policy things were also. Adhering to the text how can they way those two things. Well that's gonna be that the thing the lawyers that the justices. Debate but you know. It's most of us would agree that discrimination against gays and lesbians. And transgender is is a bad thing the question as you point out is whether it's the court. That should step in and congress. And to meet stench you want an ascendant court. To take on this issue you then kind of have to accept when the court gets involved in other issues for example gun control. That you think may be better off left the left to legislators. Around the country what I try to. Arguing the book down as prime time my liberal could credentials are secure what I try to argue in the book is that liberals and conservatives alike. Ought to be concerned about an overly interventionist. Court and remember the issue here is not whether gays and lesbians and transgender news. Have a constitutional claim. That is whether the fourteenth amendment's guarantee of equal protection protects them this is only based on. That the 1964. Law than the day will come. When the court has to decide. Whether gays and lesbians are protected under the fourteenth amendment but it's important to remember this is not that case when that case comes forward. I think I would be singing I might be singing a very different tune but on the more narrow issue of what the law covers I think the court ordered water tread lightly. This is also the First Act test on gay rights for this new conservative majority first time that new courses is on the bench justice Kavanagh is on the bench Terry. We didn't hear much from justice Kavanagh today which surprised a lot of people he was almost silent for. Well in question and didn't go anywhere you they didn't really seem to land and generate any conversation. And it's the first case on major gay rights issue without justice Anthony Kennedy. Who really was the champion. Pushing the law forward constitutionally and otherwise. Bringing gay and lesbian people into the fall abrasive citizenship under the constitution. And lionized for that essentially and I think that at the end of the day he will be missed this case would obviously turn out very differently. If Anthony Kennedy still been on the court but we have heard from Kavanagh. When we had a Dick Kaplan what's what's your take on how Cavanaugh will influence. This discussion of gay rights on this out landmark case he has not said a whole lot either in speeches or in decisions. At the lower court but if I were in the prediction game and I'm invariably wrong my guess would be that the court will rule 54. Against the claim. From gays and lesbians and transgender thing rule interpret the 1964. Statute. Narrowly and I'd that will be read as a decision of the conservative court against. Gays and lesbians but I think depending on how it's written it might be more fairly interpreted as just a piece of of punting to congress the issue the problem though and the reason the conservatives on the court. Are often hypocrites is they don't punt other issues to congress so whether it's on campaign finance. And the Citizens United case gore the voting rights act. The court was all too happy to strike down an act of congress and take it upon themselves. To decide what the law was and not allow it. Not allow senators and representatives to do so so it's a question of consistency. And hypocrisy. K -- what's your bottom line on what we heard today and what people need to know about this case which is now. Going into the into the conference room Gergen and they're gonna vote they've heard the arguments gonna read the briefs. What's the big take away well you know we'll know either way by the end of June and I think media earlier. I'm an email to David's point. If it is true that these plaintiffs lose then there's been a sir that's the end of the line in terms going to federal court to try to get protection. And then people aren't enough to turn the legislature's right so to congress as David suggested the one thing I like oh my that would business. They used to indicate that the congress and the Portland an active dialogue but congress is pretty gridlocked right now so it's not quite so simple as saying. You take these arguments to congress will change follow the law that way. So you know state legislatures localities. All these places can confer these kinds of protections if there's a vacuum coffee crops up because the court interprets the federal law. Not to protect people who live in places where there is no local protection right now. Fascinating discussion Terry Moran our chief financial correspondent Kate chart legal analysts think they so much David Caplan join us from New York thank you so much you could talk for hours of. Another so guys sitting back here on Decision Day I'm meantime just across the street over here at the United States capitol today the impeachment battle is heating up but we're getting new signs. I just how interested the public is in this battle and learning more facts take a look at this new fall from the Washington Post. And the shore school over George Washington University. Hi this show is growing support right now 58% of Americans in this latest poll say that. I they support the impeachment inquiry into president trump just 38%. I do not end there is quite a stark breakdown by party. I think we have that as well with independents now also supporting this Republicans been very concerned. About where this is going to take a look just this is this the and independents 49% support removing president trump which is pretty significant. This erupt among Republicans. Obviously much lower about has risen over the past few weeks Mary Alice parks is a deputy political director she's or what's your take away. On all of these new numbers and that continued client and it's inching up higher and higher support for this look then I am always. Careful about leading to much into one single poll but this isn't a trend over the last few weeks you've actually seen quite significant movement. Both over the question of starting an impeachment inquiry as well as that secondary question about removing the president from office. I was struck thereby that last number you saw 20%. Of Republicans. In this latest call saying they were okay with removing the president from office. That is not the kind of number that the president's reelection campaigns just won't that percentage 20%. Of Republicans and this fall with its port. We're moving troubling it's hard for your mind around that that is. Why isn't one when all we are always very careful that this is is when we'll do it and seeing movement like math across a number of polls. We did tracking a lot of than I thirty has been tracking it as well and it's it seems to be a pattern and a pattern that is moving quickly. It sure is spring Catherine folders now into this conversation she's our investigative reporter joining us from the DC bureau can shoot some. Our new reporting breaking right now knew details. About the level of concern inside the White House White House officials. With president fronts phone call it the president of Ukraine back in July Catherine what are you learning. The and we know from that original whistle blower complaint that this whistle blower says that. He or she spoke to White House officials to gather information about. The president's call it that Ukrainian president. The war reporting now we've learned about this new man that was written by this whistle blower just one day after the call took place. This whistle blower writes this first whistle blower says describes White House officials as crane are as the call. As crazy and frightening. The whistle blower says that the White House official that he was speaking to to get information. About the president's call with the Ukrainian president. Was quote visibly shaken so after the whistle blower have this conversation with this official I'm. He or she went back and typed up and wrote up a two page memo describing. Describing this as it really does illustrate the level of concern. According to the whistle blower. I've close aides to the president and this whistle blower writes that this White House official was listening to the entirety about phone call. Certainly as significant new evidence and development much port meanwhile happenstance I guess we also want to talk about this development today appearing Capitol Hill White House. I shorts and defiance in the face of congressional subpoenas request to talk to key players in that phone call. This guy can't have a different word for it they're calling it planet obstruction obstruction this this involves today a central figure in the president's Ukraine policy EU ambassador Gordon summoned him or else we're talking before the show. On this is someone that holds a lot of keys to what the president was may have been thinking in this phone call what this broader strategy was why that money was withheld. He was supposed to be up here today answering questions but declined to come. Will season he was willing to combat the State Department. Basically put the kibosh on that that he was not allowed to come testify. There are saying it would have been a sham hearing. Now like I said Democrats are saying this is a major escalation. They are saying this could be evidence of obstruction from this administration and so in some ways the fact that he did not come to testify might be working to strengthen Democrats. Position as they write articles and each. And it righted in their captain callers what are you hearing about whether he may ultimately come is this a temporary delay. In this processors the White House insisting he shouldn't answer at all. Look I think Mary houses right run and she said that he mentioned that he didn't wanna come up but look at data and this. Is now a broader strategy from the White House completely stonewalling on these investigations I know from sources I've been talking to you inside the White House. That they think that they've made this this phone call transcript a partial transcript their version of that public they've made the whistle blower complaint public. And their mind they say what else do Democrats on capital held possibly in so we will seat. The White House continue to Stonewall I think the other important when I want to make quickly is that. Republicans also want Nancy Pelosi to have a formal vote to hold a formal vote to open formal impeachment inquiry. On the house floor. There's been some discussion saying that. We won't cooperate at all until she does something like that. So I think maybe we'll see some form of communication are not front seven but it is part of a broader strategy will continue to see this in you saw the president. Tweet about this two so they just aren't willing to cooperate at all really on this front. Great reporting Catherine colors thanks so much for joining us this afternoon meanwhile Karen Capitol Hill Mary Alice there's a different story. That is almost eclipsed impeachment this week this involves a president's abrupt decision to pull back troops in Syria. And Republicans have called a catastrophic miss. Mistake short sighted irresponsible. A threat to national security again those are words from Republicans up here on Capitol Hill agreeing with Nancy Pelosi Hillary Clinton it's extraordinary deceit and an anti speaker Pelosi and Republican senate leader Mitch McConnell agree on anything these days. But they have been locked step together of the last point four hours really pushing back against the president's words on the. Willie Martinez is our senior pentagon reporter been tracking the developments after the president's announcement believes there any indication. Odd that they the president has given costs. To any of this in light of the criticism Moore are our troops already being pulled back. No DeVon the only troops that have been pulled back at those fifty years so that we go were it to observation posts right on the board Syrian border with Turkey. Those are two major border crossings in you can expect that if the Turks to launch an invasion. I'll warn incursion into northern serious can it be at those points so they pull them out beyond the I five mound mile radius there. Back Q regular parts of that. The. Outside of these security. And McCain mechanism zone as it's called I'm so that's the only thing that's happened. And in terms of a pull back now what we have heard is that yes if in case the Turks did go deeper into. Syria that. Deep rest of the US troops in the thousand US troops that are inside Syria. There is mighty consideration to pull him back within thirty days totally out of the country but we're not there yet as of right now is just a city troops there were in there. Up in those two observation points. And Louie real quickly go from aside time how do we make sense of the implications in this it seems that the president's. Sort of trying to spin this with his tweets again and making clear that he doesn't want Turkey to actually invade and nothing's actually gonna go wrong. How should people put their mind surrounded need human cost of what what this decision may be. Well the human cost this decision I think was outlined by general Joseph Patel who lays the former top US military commander in the Middle East. Yates in remarks here in town today he talked about the Syrian democratic forces the Kurds. He talked about the level of sacrifice that they've had over 111000. Fighters who've died in their campaign against ice is an image you say we should not go without noticing that. And he also said that he believes that yesterday's action. Could go a long way too bit making it difficult for United States to build partnerships in that part of the world in the future. I'm but he until motel he says he's very disappointed. It because the Kurds have done so much for United States going beyond what was even asked of them in the fight against ices. And so we're really going to see now in the next couple days when it Turkey does cushion and many causes another humanitarian crisis in the region. Louis Martinez of the Pentagon thanks so much we appreciate that and just. Or is him on the air we had. Republicans and Democrats to get on the senate demanding a closed door briefing for senators on this very issue they want more information. And we will see if that materializes they are back next week going to be an eventful week on Capitol Hill to protect you at this. On their Al sparks at the corporate to have you with us in the special edition of the brief hearing this afternoon we're here every day. 3:30 PM eastern time 530 and 630 an ABC news live downloading ABC news after. To track past 24/7 on Devin Dwyer here at the court to see you back tomorrow.

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