Maine’s Governor Paul LePage has signed onto a Supreme Court case challenging a lower court’s decision against a Michigan funeral home that fired a transgender worker. At issue in the case is whether Title VII protections, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, extends to transgender workers.
LePage cuts corners to join case.
Governor LePage has signed onto the amicus brief in support of the employer, along with 15 other states (most of them southern and midwestern states). But he does so without the support of Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills, a candidate for Governor. It is also worth noting that LePage is thumbing his nose at Maine’s Human Rights Act, which protects against discrimination based on “gender identity” by including it in the definition of “sexual orientation.”
This follows a pattern by the governor, who has clashed with Attorney General Janet Mills on her refusal to represent his extreme political views. LePage has even filed a lawsuit against the attorney general to get her to foot the bill for the hefty legal bills he’s wracked up by pursuing frivolous causes and resisting the will of the people.
But unlike members of his administration, the attorney general does not serve at the beck and call of the governor. In Maine, the attorney general is appointed by the state legislature to legally represent the people of Maine as its chief law officer and she has broad discretion to take up cases and determine what is in the public interest.
Of course, this didn’t stop LePage. Despite not having the support of Maine’s attorney general, he has circumvented the attorney general’s office to cast Maine as being in favor of employment discrimination against transgender workers.
Discrimination is bad for business.
This case follows in what’s becoming a troubling trend against LGBTQ rights and workers’ rights, whether it was the Supreme Court’s rulings in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case or the Court’s assault on unions.
But contrary to what opponents of workers’ rights claim, discrimination is no way to grow an economy and is proven to be bad for business.
For instance, when North Carolina pushed forward it’s ‘Bathroom Bill,’ Forbes estimated that the economic loss to the state was over $600 million as businesses, the NBA, and investors voiced their opposition and sought more inclusive places to do business.
Another study by the Center for American Progress also states that:
[D]isparities are especially significant for communities of color, and in particular, for transgender communities of color. Thirty-two percent of black transgender respondents, 36 percent of American Indian transgender respondents, and 30 percent of Latino/a transgender respondents report having been fired from a job because of their gender identity or expression.
These experiences of workplace discrimination and subsequent job insecurity contribute to higher rates of poverty in the entire LGBTQ community, particularly in transgender communities and communities of color. Transgender people report being four times more likely to live on an income of $10,000 per year compared with the general population. They also report experiencing unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with the rates being four times as high for transgender people of color.
In addition, comparative studies of economies all across the globe show a clear and positive link between LGBTQ rights and inclusion and GDP growth.
If Maine wants to be open for business, we need a new governor that supports LGBTQ inclusion.
It’s imperative that we have a new governor that supports full LGBTQ inclusion at all levels of society, including in our economy. As Quinn Gormley, executive director of Maine Transnet, stated in response to the news:
“We are enraged but not surprised that Gov. Lepage signed onto this brief. The GOP administration in Maine has a long record of going against the clear will of Mainer’s who continually vote to support the rights of their LGBTQ+ neighbors and loved ones against discrimination. 25% of transgender Mainers report being fired, passed over, or denied employment in the last year due to discrimination. We need a Governor who has their backs, and is working to make Maine a safe place to live and work for everyone. Instead, Gov. Lepage works to be a role model for school yard bullies and all those who seek to make it impossible for LGBTQ+ people to participate in and contribute to our economy.”
But beyond the 2018 gubernatorial race, it is imperative that we have a Supreme Court that understands the real harms to individuals, families, economies, and societies when we marginalize people and allow discrimination to keep LGBTQ people from earning equal pay and getting equal opportunity at jobs, housing, health care, and the ability to provide and afford basic necessities.
So, yes, we need a new governor. But we also need to make sure Senator Collins doesn’t vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice.