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How Same-Sex Marriage Cases Could Expand Other LGBT Protections

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon deliver rulings in the same-sex marriage cases it heard earlier this year. Legal experts predict favorable rulings on marriage may help with other big issues for gay and lesbian activists – particularly employment protection.


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Texas is one of 28 states with no law protecting public and private employees from being harassed or fired because of their sexual orientation. 

But if justices side with the plaintiffs in the current marriage cases, that will speed-up efforts to expand employment protection, especially if the court rules that same-sex marriage bans discriminate on the basis of gender. 

“If that is the rationale for the decision, the courts that have been resistant to thinking about sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrimination will have to reckon with that right away, and that would be a real game changer,” says attorney Greg Nevins, an employment strategist for the advocacy group Lambda Legal.

Nevins says if justices rule there’s no distinction between sex and sexual orientation discrimination when it comes to marriage, that would carry over into areas where sex discrimination is already illegal, such as employment, housing, family and medical leave, and education.

In another possible outcome, justices could rule marriage is a fundamental right — one that has nothing to do with gender. If that’s the Court’s opinion, Nevins says it wouldn’t have the immediate effect of a ruling based on sex discrimination. But, he believes state and federal employment protections would be quicker, and easier, to pass.

“Because the public has already shown a capacity to appreciate more that the LGBT community is not that much different from them, and they want the same things in life. They want to be able to love, to work. So it’s going to be a good day, no matter what. But it could be a really, really good day if it’s talking about sex discrimination,” Nevins said.  

Nevins says, in his view, the gold standard would be laws and court rulings that  specifically say sexual orientation is its own protected class — on the same level as gender, but apart from it.


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David Pitman

David Pitman

Host & Announcer

David was HPM's local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 — when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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