FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — A divided Supreme Court could have critical implications for millions of LGBTQ Americans.
At the heart of the debate is workplace discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
The Supreme Court spent nearly two hours listening to oral arguments on Tuesday to decide if LGBTQ Americans are protected under Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In Arkansas, employees do not have any statewide protections that cover discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“This is a critical and pivotal decision,” says Danielle Weatherby, University of Arkansas Associate Professor of Law. “An individual can get married to whomever they chose on the weekend, and go to work on Monday and be fired for entering into a same-sex union.”
In northwest Arkansas, activist Coraline Gray says, “this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
It hits close to home.
“I do know people who have lost their jobs because of presentation or because they were gay, visibly gay,” Gray adds. “I’m excited and terrified, to be honest.”
Weatherby says the petitioners argument boils down to this: “When you think of sex discrimination, you think would the same discriminatory act have occurred if you were a member of the opposite sex? If a woman is discriminated against because she’s in a same-sex relationship, you ask would she have been discriminated against if she were a man in that same relationship?”
If the court rules against the LGBTQ petitioners, “a decision construing the term ‘sex’ narrowly would unravel some of the case law that has been well established,” Weatherby said.
It’s a decision Gray waits on.
“Even though we’ve come quite a ways, there are still a lot of fights left in the civil rights campaign,” Gray said.