By ERWIN FREED
On Monday, June 15, the Supreme Court Ruled 6-3 that employees can no longer be fired for gender or sexual identity. The decision affirms that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which deals with employment discrimination, applies to gender and sexuality, extending legal protections to the 22 states with nothing on the books protecting LGBTQIA+ workers.
The capitalist class in the United States benefits both from the hyper-exploitation of LGBTQIA+ people as well as maintaining the ideal of the nuclear family. Monday’s ruling changes neither of these fundamental facts, but does represent a victory of the mass movement that has erupted against police brutality and that more and more is rebelling against other basic injustices of the system as a whole.
The ongoing demonstrations shaking the country out of its long political sleep began over capitalism’s inability to discipline its repressive apparatus. Tens of thousands were brought into the streets demanding the prosecution of George Floyd’s murderers. That initial program has since been expanded by the developing consciousness of the masses engaged in independent struggle. The democratic demand of jailing killer cops has taken on extra economic dimensions through the popular slogans of defunding the police and funding social services.
In recent days, the movement has taken up the fight for trans rights. Tens of thousands took to the streets on June 14 to show that Black trans people have militant support in this country. These demonstrations included over 10,000 people marching through the streets in Brooklyn, Boston, and Los Angeles. “Black Trans Lives Matter” became a battle cry ringing from coast to coast.
Mass movements versus the capitalist parties
Three weeks of mass mobilizations have made more gains for the movements for LGBTQIA+ rights, against police brutality, and abolishing the prison industrial complex than 40 years of capitalist politicians ever accomplished. At their peak legislative power in Obama’s first term, the Democrats failed to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, despite a majority in both the houses of Congress and the presidency. Now, in an attempt to not further stoke the flames of class struggle, one of the most regressive institutions in the United States have been stirred by popular demands into making concessions.
A common liberal argument for so-called lesser-evil politics is that Democrats will appoint Supreme Court judges who are more sympathetic to progressive cases. This reasoning shifts the motor of history from class struggle to horse trading between capitalist politicians. The capitalists are capable of making concessions, but they are incapable of either fighting for them or taking them all the way.
While some sections of the ruling class are more willing to give limited support to LGBTQIA+ rights, the capitalist class as a whole objectively benefits from being able to discriminate on the job and maintain internal divisions within the working class. Workers, on the other hand, have nothing at all to gain from gender or sexual oppression, and therefore can and will lead the fight for democratic rights for LGBTQIA+ people and beyond.
Decisions like the Monday ruling are reflections of the balance of forces and the dynamic of the current class struggle. The ruling that formally ends job discrimination for LGBTQIA+ people comes with a majority conservative Court, and the majority opinion was written by Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee. At the same time, the calculation was made to turn down making a ruling on qualified immunity for police officers. The Court and its backers in industry and the big banks are hoping that things calm down enough so that this indiscretion will be forgotten.
The fight for queer rights continues
While this ruling is a definite victory, and likely would be far more partial or even non-existent without one of the largest mass mobilizations in U.S. history, LGBTQIA+ people still face severe oppression in this country. For one thing, the legal apparatus to enforce the Supreme Court decision is still not in place in a number of states. Moreover, the implications of the ruling on matters such as discrimination in hiring LGBTQIA+ people is still not clear.
On June 13, Socialist Resurgence reported on the ongoing epidemic of violence against trans and non-binary people, especially Black trans women. LGBTQIA+ people are especially victimized by police brutality and the prison industrial complex, and they will continue to be in the frontlines against both. The movement for kicking cops out of Pride marches in previous years was an important moment in rediscovering the spirit of Stonewall among the general uptick in working-class militancy.
At the same time that discrimination on the job was outlawed, the Trump administration and state governments continue to attack trans rights on different fronts. Rules banning trans athletes from competing in high-school sports as well as the recent HHS ruling that allows doctors to misgender trans and non-binary patients remain in place. The fight against LGBTQI+ oppression will not be won until capitalism is torn up by its roots and replaced with a workers state capable of displacing the nuclear family as the core of social reproduction and guaranteeing food, housing, and inclusive health care to all.
The fight is not over, but every day the facts become clearer. Workers and oppressed people are making giant strides simply by being in motion almost exclusively independently of the ruling class. As the movement develops in the streets, it is also developing a program of radical demands that capitalism is incapable of realizing. From these mobilizations and with this program, the next step is to consolidate a class-struggle leadership on a national level through democratic assemblies and full discussions in BIPOC and working-class organizations.
These organizations would form the nucleus of a mass independent party of workers tied by a million threads to the trade unions and other organizations of struggle. This is our party to build, so let’s get to work to build it!