Coca-Cola, Cox fight for fired gay Georgia man at U.S. Supreme Court

Georgia’s largest LGBTQ rights group and two of its largest corporations filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court calling on it to protect LGBTQ workers. 

Georgia Equality filed its brief on Monday in the case of Gerald Bostock, a gay man who was fired from his job as a child welfare services coordinator with the Clayton County Juvenile Court in 2013. Bostock claimed he was fired soon after his employer discovered he played with the Hotlanta Softball League, an LGBTQ sports organization.

Bostock’s case and two others will be argued before the high court this fall to decide whether employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court’s decision would have an effect on hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ Georgians, according to Eric Paulk (photo), deputy director of Georgia Equality.

“Employment discrimination is a real issue impacting the lives of millions of LGBTQ Americans and their families – this includes the estimated 360,600 Georgians who identify as LGBTQ,” Paulk said in a press release. “The court should affirm nationwide legal protection based on their sex because no one should endure discrimination or harassment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Georgia Equality’s 42-page brief argues that anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination leads to increased harassment of LGBTQ employees, which can range from losing out on jobs and promotions to physical and sexual assault. Atlanta-based law firm Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore provided pro bono work on the brief. 

Georgia-based Coca-Cola Company and Cox Enterprises joined over 200 other companies in an amicus brief filed in the three LGBTQ employment discrimination cases on July 2. The brief has the most corporate sponsors of any business brief ever filed in an LGBTQ nondiscrimination case, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

The three cases represent “a critical moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality,” according to Jay Brown, senior vice president for programs, research and training at the HRC Foundation. 

“These employers know first-hand that protecting the LGBTQ community is both good for business and the right thing to do,” Brown said in a press release. “With so much progress on the line, we are grateful that so many major American companies are standing up for the rights and dignity of their LGBTQ employees, family members and customers.”

Bostock sued Clayton County in 2016. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia dismissed the case in 2017. The 11th Circuit Court ruled against Bostock in 2018 and denied his appeal. Clayton County asked the Supreme Court to ignore the split in lower court rulings and deny Bostock’s petition for review in August.

Oral arguments in Bostock’s case and the other two could be scheduled between October and April 2020, according to Clayton County News Daily.