Out Law by Angela Giampolo

Angela D. Giampolo, principal of Giampolo Law Group, maintains offices in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and specializes in LGBT law, family law, business law, real estate law and civil rights. Her website is www.giampololaw.com and she maintains a blog at www.phillygaylawyer.com. Reach out to Angela with your legal questions at 215-645-2415 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Earlier this summer in “Matal v. Tam” (formerly “Lee v. Tam”), the United States Supreme Court struck down the restriction on the registration of marks that “disparage” under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote unanimously for the eight justices in holding that Section 2(a)’s prohibition on disparaging registrations violates a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.

 

In April, for the first time ever, a full panel of Circuit Court judges in the Seventh District in Illinois ruled that discrimination against employees due to sexual orientation was against Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, finding that discrimination based on orientation falls under discrimination based on sex. The opinion reversed a lower-court decision to throw out the case of an Indiana professor fired for being a lesbian, and set federal-level legal precedent that sex discrimination includes sexual orientation. 

In recent years, when the terms “LGBTQ” and “small business” are discussed in the media, it’s usually in response to a small but vocal minority demanding religious freedom to refuse service to members of the LGBTQ community, and the legal battles that follow. However, perhaps there are more important discussions revolving around business and the LGBTQ community — the power LGBTQ-owned businesses have in furthering equality.

On the final day of its session, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings on the basis of his “religious beliefs.” Unfortunately, we are going to have to wait to see if “religious freedom” includes the freedom to discriminate as the case likely won’t be argued until late in the next session, which begins in October. 

For 17 years, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” forcibly closeted tens of thousands of military servicemen and women. Originally designed as a compromise between lawmakers and military personnel who wanted the ban on LGBTQ servicemembers lifted and those who didn’t, the reality of DADT encouraged an environment in which discrimination and prejudice festered, and those most hurt by it had no recourse because they faced dishonorable discharge. Over the lifespan of DADT, more than 14,000 servicemembers were given discharges due to their sexual orientation. The 2011 repeal of DADT, however, lifted that albatross from the necks of our LGBTQ servicemembers, allowing them to live authentically both in and out of uniform. Now we have a military that accepts any qualified person willing to serve — and with the daily reminder of the dangers at our country’s doorstep, better late than never. 

LGBT equality has been an important topic in the United States for the last several years, and the legal strides we’ve made to improve our lives have been impressive. We still have a way to go in changing laws and minds but in other parts of the world, it’s much, much worse. 

On Feb. 24, 2004, then-President George W. Bush announced that he supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, declaring it was the only way to protect the status of marriage between man and woman, which he called “the most fundamental institution of civilization.”

So much has changed since that day in October when we all rejoiced at the announcement that the Supreme Court of the United States would hear G. G. v. Gloucester County School Board and review a decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the discrimination of transgender people in the educational system. We thought this case was potentially setting precedent that sexual identification is a classification eligible for legal protection. So much has changed since then that the very basis of the case and why SCOTUS agreed to hear it has been jeopardized.

I won’t mince words: Each day, values that we hold dear — inclusion, tolerance and equality — are in danger like never before. Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen Americans ban together in unprecedented ways, from the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., to a small town in Alaska where 2 feet of snow fell as they marched, to hundreds of international cities around the world and most recently at airports everywhere. It has been inspiring.

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