Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trans Rights Activist Comments On The Supreme Court Ruling


Sitting at his computer this morning in California, Kris Hayashi stared intently at his screen and waited.

KRIS HAYASHI: Every time we know that a SCOTUS decision is going to drop, a good portion of the LGBTQ movement is sitting in front of our computers, pressing refresh on the SCOTUS Web page.

SHAPIRO: SCOTUS as in the Supreme Court of the United States. And Hayashi was glued to that Web page because he is executive director of the Transgender Law Center, and he had been waiting for a ruling on the rights of LGBTQ workers all term. One last refresh, and Hayashi got the news.

HAYASHI: I was shocked and immediately just reflected on what it took to get us to this win.

SHAPIRO: In a monumental ruling, the Supreme Court said that LGBTQ people are covered under the Civil Rights Act's ban on sex-based employment discrimination, and the ruling comes at a tough time for people fighting for equality, as Hayashi told me earlier today.

HAYASHI: This victory comes at a time during which our communities are holding so much grief and so much rage, and we are in the midst of historic uprisings all across the country. And we absolutely are taking a moment to pause in this time of grief and rage to celebrate together.

SHAPIRO: So this opinion is specifically about employment. And in other areas, the Trump administration has rolled back several rules that protect trans people. Just last week the administration revoked health care protections for transgender people. There have been rules on bathroom access, serving in the military, issues of prison placement, child welfare, homeless shelters and more. Do you think this ruling opens up a new path to challenge some of those rules?

HAYASHI: Absolutely. I mean, we know that transgender people were already facing disproportionate discrimination in hiring and harassment at work, and now the Supreme Court has provided a measure of protection that will help improve the lives of trans people. However, we need to continue to fight for our communities because we know that black trans people - that trans people of color are most impacted by violence, discrimination and harassment. So there is so much more to do, in particular in supporting the leadership of black trans women and trans people of color all across the country.

SHAPIRO: Thousands of people marched in Brooklyn over the weekend to demand protection and justice for black trans women. Two black trans women were murdered last week. The body of a third was found over the weekend in Florida. And so put today's Supreme Court ruling into the larger context of what the lived reality is today for many trans women, especially women of color.

HAYASHI: Yes. The murders of trans people in this country have continued, specifically of black trans women. And I saw videos and images of the march in Brooklyn led by black trans women and femmes, and I have never seen a march of that size speaking to the power of black trans women. It was incredible, and it was historic. This is a moment in which trans people, in which black trans people, black communities, so many people all across the country are rising up to speak out against the violence and murders of black people, including black women and femmes in this country.

SHAPIRO: And do you think that will have an impact on the lives of people in small towns far from the big city who might not have regular employment, who are living on the margins and struggling?

HAYASHI: Yes, absolutely. What I reflect on with this Supreme Court win is that it is absolutely made possible by the support of our allies, and it is absolutely made possible by trans and gender-nonconforming people all across this country who have fought for the rights for trans communities for so long, some of whom are no longer with us, specifically led by black and brown trans women. So absolutely.

SHAPIRO: Kris Hayashi is the executive director of the Transgender Law Center.

Thanks for talking with us today.

HAYASHI: Thanks so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.