Media Contact

Janna Farley, jfarley@aclu.org

August 27, 2019

Officials in South Dakota filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug 23 asking the court to rule against three individuals who had been fired for being LGBTQ. The three cases include the first transgender civil rights case to be heard by the high court.

“By choosing to sign on to this brief, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is sending a message to LGBTQ South Dakotas that their highest elected government officials don’t believe they should live free from discrimination. No one should have to fear that they can be fired just because of who they are,” said Libby Skarin, ACLU of South Dakota policy director. “This is a cruel, unnecessary move that does nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or grow our workforce. If President Trump gets his way at the Supreme Court, it will give his administration the license to take even more dangerous actions against transgender people, including denying health care or kicking people out of their homes. It would put kids and families at risk.”

The employees in these cases, including ACLU clients Aimee Stephens who was fired for being transgender and Don Zarda who was fired for being gay, have argued that discrimination against LGBTQ people is unlawful sex discrimination. A number of federal appeals courts have said that the Civil Rights Act and other federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination apply to LGBTQ people, as have dozens of state and district courts.

Advocates say that a victory in these cases would be just one step toward achieving comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community nationwide.

“With the Trump Administration’s relentless attacks on LGBTQ equality, the need to pass the Equality Act to provide comprehensive, express federal protections for LGBTQ people nationwide is greater than ever,” Skarin said. “Federal law doesn’t currently prohibit sex discrimination in some critical areas, like public accommodations and federally-funded programs so, no matter what the Supreme Court says, we also will need Congress to act to provide such protections for LGBTQ people and for all women.”

The cases will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 8.

About the ACLU of South Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.

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