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Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus Calls on Supreme Court to Protect Workplace Rights for LGBTQ Americans

Straus’ op-ed comes a month after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for three employment discrimination cases in which a person was fired for being gay or transgender.

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Former state House Speaker Joe Straus at a Texas Tribune event on March 29, 2019. Photo credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Joe Straus, the Republican former speaker of the Texas House, called on the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to protect LGBTQ people against workplace discrimination.

Last month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for three cases that pertain to whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act should protect people from being fired because they are gay or transgender. There are no current federal laws protecting LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination. More than half of U.S. states, including Texas, have no state law explicitly protecting people from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“As a lifelong Republican, I believe all Americans should have the opportunity to work and the freedom to go about their daily lives without the fear of discrimination,” Straus wrote in an op-ed for Newsweek. “Some of the most prominent Republican-appointed federal judges in the country have already recognized that existing federal civil rights laws extend to gay and transgender Americans.”

The Supreme Court should do the same, he wrote.

Straus retired from the Texas Legislature after opting not to run for reelection in 2018. In his last legislative session in 2017, his opposition helped kill a measure that came to be known as the “bathroom bill,” which would have banned local policies that ensured transgender individuals’ rights to use public and school restrooms that match their gender identity.

In the op-ed Straus gave two reasons for his continued opposition of anti-LGBTQ legislation: economic risk — citing lower employee productivity, higher turnover and millions of dollars lost across Texas in 2016 from canceled events due to debates about the “bathroom bill” — and protection of an already marginalized group.

“Respecting human dignity, striving for mutual respect and ensuring equal opportunity are nonpartisan values,” Straus wrote.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Stacy Fernández is the Tribune’s breaking news reporter. When she isn’t breaking stories, Stacy leads the Tribune’s reader-driven explainer series, Texplainer. First introduced to the Lone Star state as an intern at The Dallas Morning News, she was also a News21 fellow, reporter for NPR’s Next Generation Radio Project and Buffalo News intern. Stacy graduated from Syracuse University with dual degrees in magazine journalism and Latino-Latin American studies. The Afro-Dominicana thrifts frequently, is a solid bachata dancer and is a firm believer that listening to audiobooks is just as good as reading.

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