HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The U.S. Supreme Court was hearing arguments Tuesday on three landmark cases for LGBTQ rights concerning workplace discrimination.
The cases will determine if it is legal under existing federal law to fire an employee based on sexual orientation, or gender identity. One of those cases comes from Long Island, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.
“He should never have been fired for who he is and for who he loves,” LGBT Network President/CEO David Kilmnick said of Don Zarda, a Suffolk County skydiving instructor who died five years ago. “Today, we are speaking … we are speaking for him.”
The case has made it to the highest court in the land and has a wide-ranging impact on LGBT discrimination protections.
Zarda was fired from a skydiving job in Calverton after he put a female student at ease about their physical contact for a tandem jump by telling her he was gay. The girl’s boyfriend later called to complain.
Zarda recorded the conversation when his boss fired him.
“It’s not about gay. It’s about your personal life, talking to people about it,” the boss says on tape.
The owner of the skydiving company said he fired Zarda because of the complaint, but to Zarda, it was about being gay.
That’s something two student-teachers on Long Island told McLogan they recently experienced.
“I feel like the second after I came out as transgender that was kind of the icing on the cake,” Aaron Braun said.
“It was really the parents, their threats to pull their kids out of the school, and their threats to make noise on social media,” Em Moratti added.
Both said their offers to become teachers in the district were rescinded due to their openness regarding their sexual orientation.
CBS2’s Alice Gainer reports —
Zarda died in a wingsuit accident in Switzerland in 2014. His husband, Bill Moore, said Zarda suffered from depression after he was fired and began doing riskier jumps.
“I don’t think Don would have died had he not lost his job,” Moore said. “I think him being fired eventually is what took his life.”
Kilmnick said he and his organization are ready for a long battle, if necessary.
“We are stronger together and as you can see here, we are, and we are not going to back down. We are going to fight back and we are going to make sure that we do have equality for all Americans and we protect LGBT workers’ rights,” Kilmnick said.
The cases are the first the court has heard concerning LGBTQ rights since Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was known for being a champion of gay rights, retired, and will be viewed as a sign of how the new conservative majority will approach gay rights. A decision in the Zarda case is not expected until perhaps June, McLogan reported.