BRIANNA KEILAR (HOST): Earlier today the Supreme Court heard arguments on historic cases that could impact millions of LGBTQ Americans. And at issue is the reach of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This protects against workplace discrimination because of race, religion, and other characteristics, and that is key there. Now the justices must decide if the laws barring workplace discrimination based on sex also encompass gender identity. We have Gillian Branstetter with us. She is the spokeswoman for the National Center for Transgender Equality. Thank you so much for coming on. So one of these cases involves a transgender woman in Michigan named Aimee Stephens who was fired from her job at a funeral home shortly after she came out as trans to her employer. Tell us why that is something that actually reflects a broader experience and also why this case is so important.
GILLIAN BRANSTETTER (NATIONAL CENTER FOR TRANSGENDER EQUALITY, SPOKESWOMAN): It is really hard to overstate the importance of this case to transgender people. For one, it's the first transgender rights case in front of the Supreme Court. And I was just reading through the transcripts and people were pointing out that it was the first time the word transgender had been used in the Supreme Court. It was the first time the word cisgender had been used in the Supreme Court. So this is really a monumental moment for the trans rights movement in this country. But it is also critically important, because the right to equal employment is crucial for the trans community. The woman in this case, Aimee Stephens, was fired from her job at a funeral home of six years shortly after she came out and unfortunately that's an experiences that one in six trans people have had, where just by being themselves they have lost their jobs. And that's reflective of the experiences that transgender people have had in a variety of areas of our lives -- not just in employment, but in housing, in our family, in our faith communities, and in our relationships. Every transgender person has lost something.
KEILAR: Our Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue reported at the end of these arguments that the justices really seemed divided here. If the court decides that the law does not include gender identity in those protections, what does that mean for the community?
BRANSTETTER: Well, there are still 22 states that explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of gender identity. So people under those states should be legally covered, but that still means that the majority of transgender people live in a state without those protections. So by the court blasting in a hole in the federal law, it leaves transgender people exposed to discrimination and frankly sends a terrifying message about what kind of country this is and the role that equality and acceptance should play.