LGBTQ Rights Up For Interpretation?
This past June, I fell in love with Tennessee after visiting a friend who moved there a couple years back. We spent an entire day floating down the Harpeth River—enjoying the slow pace and dense lush forest that hugs the riverbank. After our canoeing adventure, we gathered around a fire pit in her backyard, watched a blanket of fireflies illuminate the earth around us, and discussed how different life is in Tennessee compared to Southern California.
The conversation turned to the question of whether my wife and I would ever consider moving to Tennessee. As a lesbian couple, it is impossible for us to not consider the level of LGBTQ acceptance when we consider moving to, or even visiting, another state or country. And, Tennessee is a prime example of a state that does not have any explicit law prohibiting discrimination against me based on my sexual orientation.
Without explicit federal protection from workplace discrimination, LGBTQ families like mine are left at the mercy of state non-discrimination laws and shifting interpretations of federal law. A simple decision to move to a state void of any statewide anti-discrimination laws, coupled with recent federal government position reversals, could easily result in an inability to find a job merely because of the gender of my spouse.
Over the years, LGBTQ people have been forced to rely on a hodgepodge of regulations, state laws, federal guidance opinions, and local ordinances to create a patchwork of protection against discrimination. Unfortunately, this path can be unpredictable and unreliable because many states do not have any anti-discrimination laws and federal agencies have complete discretion to rescind, revise, or rollback their guidance opinions.
I look forward to learning more about recent changes to the interpretation of LGBTQ protections under federal civil rights laws and pending legislation at an upcoming MCLE panel discussion coordinated by Lawyers Club's LGBTQ Committee and Tom Homann LGBT Law Association (Friday, March 16, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. – register here to join us).
The panel will include esteemed speakers, Amanda Goad, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and Alexander Chen, Equal Justice Works Fellow, National Center for Lesbian Rights. They will provide an in-depth review of recent federal government position reversals on sexual discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, religion as a license to discriminate, transgender military service, and more.
After the panel discussion, guests are welcome to attend a reception where we can mingle and continue talking about these important topics.
Kimberly Ahrens is the founder of The Ahrens Law Office and is the current chair of Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee.