'Spirit of Stonewall' lives on as LGBT fights play out in federal courts

Supreme Court.
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By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Fifty years after the Stonewall riots galvanized a national movement for LGBT rights, the battle is still being fought in the courts, with one major case headed to the nation's highest court this fall, and two local cases not far behind.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments surrounding civil rights, and whether gender identity and sexual orientation are protected under Title VII from job discrimination. In October, oral arguments for two equality cases, combined as one, will be heard by the nation's highest court, with a decision expected to come down next summer.

The first case involves a transgender woman who was fired from her position in a funeral home as she was transitioning. The other involves two people who say they were fired for being gay.

But if not?

"It would disenfranchise (transgender people), and eliminate those protections and be devastating."

Two other local cases are making their way up the federal litigation ladder.

Philadelphia's Catholic Social Services is expected to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court soon, after a federal judge ruled the city lawfully pulled their foster and adoption agency contract, claiming the religious group discriminated against gay and lesbian couples.

The lower court agreed with Boyertown. The upset families then appealed to the Third Circuit.

"That court agreed with the Federal trial court and said no, the school district was within its rights to to provide transgender kids with the right to use facilities that matched their gender identity," says Roper.

At the time, Boyertown senior Aidan Destefano, who is transgender, testified on behalf of the school district.

The families appealed again to the U.S. Supreme Court, but last month, the justices declined to hear their case, allowing Boyertown transgender students to continue to use the facilities they needed. 

"Sometimes (the U.S. Supreme Court) takes issues because they think they are going to just keep coming back until they decide it," says Roper. "And sometimes they wait for more decisions to see what the courts are doing with them, before they decide to sort of take it and break the tie."

Roper says the decision next summer about equal protections for gender identity and sexual orientation could directly affect both the Boyertown and the Catholic Social Services cases.

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Fifty years after the uprising at Stonewall that marked a turning point in the fight for equality, KYW Newsradio examines the past, present, and future of the LGBTQ rights movement through voices from the Philadelphia region in the series "Stonewall Uprising 50th Anniversary."