Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington) said he is disappointed by a recent Supreme Court decision that affirmed anti-discrimination protections for members of the LGBTQ community in the workplace.
“The justices are supposed to be strict constitutional justices. They’re supposed to follow the U.S. Constitution and follow the way the law was actually written-and not try to come up with law from the bench. And, unfortunately, what they just did-was develop law from the bench,” Parrott told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview on Tuesday.
On Monday the high court ruled 6-3 that Title XII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin etc.-affords the same protections to LGBTQ individuals.
The majority opinion said that because the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex it must also prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch, both of whom are considered conservative jurists, voted with the more liberal members of the court in handing down the historic decision. In 2015, the court invalided state laws that prohibited same-sex marriage. Maryland legalized same-sex marriage in 2012 and is included among the more than a dozen states that outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity prior to yesterday’s ruling.
Parrott, who is running for Congress in the Sixth District, said Congress should have decided the issue.
“The right way to pass this type of legislation is through the U.S. Congress-which has been tried time and time again and has not passed.”
But other Maryland leaders applauded the court’s ruling.
“It was a great day for equality within the community and for equality within the country,” said former Gov. Parris Glendening.
Glendening has championed gay rights since he was a member of the Prince George’s County Council back in the 1970s and long before many Democrat leaders joined the movement.
Glendening said the court’s decision made him think of his late-brother Bruce, who was gay and succumbed to AIDS in 1992. Bruce served three tours of duty in Vietnam as a member of the Air Force. He later resigned from the Air Force to avoid the possibility of receiving dishonorable discharge for being gay. Glendening relayed that Bruce once told him that he longed for a day when gay people would have equal rights under the law.
“When he was dying he did say one time…he simply said: ‘someday.’ And I knew immediately what he was talking about. That was decades ago. And I got to tell you I started to lose some hope. But fortunately, others carried the enthusiasm.”
Glendening attributed Gorsuch and Roberts’ voting the way they did to the special emphasis conservatism places on support for individual rights.
“From my perspective, you cannot be a true philosophical conservative and commit those outrageous violations of individual rights. And it may be that this is what we are seeing here.”
Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman Will Smith (D-Montgomery), like Glendening, also applauded the court’s decision. Smith said the decision represents a “tremendous step forward” for civil rights and “for the LGBT community.”
Smith said the court’s decision expands upon the rights that Maryland law already affords to members of the LGBTQ community.
“It means that outside the scope of state employment or being a state employer-that they know that if they’re working with the federal government or work in another state-that their rights will be protected. And that they will have the ability to really move about society as a whole person and as someone that they identify with. It’s tremendously important, not only symbolically-but there’s real practical implications for it as well even though you live in Maryland.”
Del. Brian Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel) said the decision itself is a positive development but noted that it could have unintended consequences.
“It is a good thing as long as it doesn’t lead to several frivolous lawsuits. If it protects somebody for being gay-than that’s great.”
Chisholm, who owns a gym, said he believes that most employers are not concerned about the sexual orientation of their employees-yet they could still become the targets of plaintiff’s attorneys.
“I always hesitate with these things. I think they’re important. But I will tell you who makes out on these things every time…the lawyers. The lawyers get paid on both sides on every one of these deals. And it destroys some businesses.”