ST. LOUIS – The U.S. Supreme Court Monday said employers can no longer discriminate against people in the LGBTQ community. Missouri law still says those citizens are not protected. A local attorney explains why Missouri workers will still benefit from the Federal case.
You may remember the St. Louis County Police Sergeant who recently fought for his rights. Sgt. Keith Wildhaber claimed a former police commissioner told him to “tone down his gayness” while he was continually passed over for promotion.
He faced an uphill battle because the Missouri Human Rights Act does not prohibit discrimination against gay people. But he still won a $20 million dollar verdict.
“You’re seeing a shift in juries and juries represent the conscience of the community, the voice of the community. Juries are changing their views on these issues, “said Hugh Eastwood, Civil rights attorney.
Eastwood says the decision by a St. Louis County jury represents the feelings of many and the U.S. Supreme Court is listening.
“Really what the court is doing is not leading public opinion, it’s following public opinion. There’s been a shift in America’s opinion around this issue and the court is recognizing that in a way it can enforce the law, the literal textual language of the law, in a way that is consistent with social understanding.”
Though Missouri law does not protect people in the LGBTQ community, Eastwood says the federal decision will have a local impact.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of guidance from H.R. departments and changing employment practices,” said Eastwood. “I think that the law in our employment context and really any context for civil rights has changed today to make it clear that this is a huge win for gay and trans-Americans.
Eastwood also pointed out that three recent Missouri Supreme Court decisions sidestepped sexual orientation and that it’s no longer an issue Missouri Justices will be able to avoid.