JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court Monday not only prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity but also offers protections to members of the LGBT community that 21 states, including Mississippi, have never had before.
Over the years, four cities in the Magnolia State made those workplace protections part of their municipal code.
“Jackson was the first to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance in 2016. Every year beyond that, in 2017, Magnolia passed an ordinance. In 2018, Clarksdale passed an ordinance, and just this past year, 2019, Holly Springs passed a fully inclusive, nondiscrimination ordinance," said Human Rights Campaign state director Rob Hill.
Despite those steps, Hill said he’s heard of discrimination against LGBTQ members across the state, but they’ve rarely become public, because there could be a very real risk in coming forward.
“A lot of times, we may not know about those because they’re just not reported. Maybe someone doesn’t bring a claim in the workplace because they’re fearful of retribution, maybe from their boss, or lack of advancement they fear in the workplace. Even being ostracized in their community," Hill said.
Now, Hill hopes Monday’s Supreme Court ruling and recent unrest toward racial discrimination could lead to the passage of the Equality Act, which would offer further protections in housing and public accommodation for LGBTQ members.
That bill has languished in the U.S. Senate for more than a year after passing the U.S. House.
Advocates like Hill also think the decision could spur positive change in Mississippi, too.
“When they see the Supreme Court making a decision like this that expands equality, that ensures that LGBTQ people don’t have to worry about being fired from their job because of who they are and who they love, they might want to expand our laws in the state to make sure that LGBTQ people are protected in all aspects of their life," Hill said.