Love is love, sports are sports: Title VII and its effect on sports

USA Soccer
Wikimedia/Creative Commons

Related Posts

Somewhere not over the rainbow, but rather here in the United States, approximately 9 million LGBT Americans are celebrating their newly obtained civil rights.

On June 15, the Supreme Court concluded in a 6-to-3 ruling that everyone within the LGBTQ+ community is now protected from discrimination in the workplace — meaning that no person is allowed to fire someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression, as it is now a violation of federal law.

In a statement by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, he explains that the reasoning behind the court’s decision is based on the original text of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Gorsuch wrote. “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

When Title VII was first written into law, the general understanding of discrimination based on sex only referred to a bias against women or men and did not encompass inequity based on sexual orientation, gender identity or any other statuses.

The extension of Title VII is a monumental occasion in the long history and fight for LGBTQ+ equality. Even in 2015, when the Supreme Court established the constitutional right to same-sex marriages, more than half of the states allowed for the expulsion of anyone in their respective profession for no reason besides identifying as LGBTQ+.

Trump himself accepted the ruling despite the fact that he and his administration have repeatedly opted to resist LGBTQ+ protection.

“I’ve read the decision,” Trump said during a separate event on senior issues, as the White House press secretary canceled the briefing scheduled to address the ruling. “Some people were surprised, but they’ve ruled and we live with their decision.”

With this indeed powerful change, LGBTQ+ people no longer need to be afraid of being laid off due to prejudice or bias against them. The world of sports is no exception to this rule.

It is no secret that heteronormality is present in all levels of sports, which have been historically male-dominated and dictated by toughness, aggression and stoicism. While many sports leagues and individual teams, such as the U.S. women’s national soccer team, are taking it upon themselves to venture away from this standard, homophobia has played an unignorable role in the development of sports culture as we know it today.

While there are now more openly LGBTQ+ athletes in the professional sports world such as Jason Collins and Megan Rapinoe, a lack of representation of the LGBTQ+ community due to a massive stigma can be harmful to adolescents who may be questioning their sexual orientation or gender.

A 2009 study by Lindsey Wilkinson and Jennifer Pearson on the well-being of same-sex-attracted adolescents showed that students who grappled with their LGBTQ+ identity experienced higher rates of depression, low self-esteem, hostility and failure in school. This decline in well-being could also manifest itself as a loss of interest in the sport that they love playing — all because sports standards want to repress a part of them that they cannot control and should not be shamed for regardless.

“Sports are a transformative way for students to build social skills and community, but when too many LGBTQ student-athletes are blocked from being their true selves — we fail them,” said Ashland Johnson, former director of public education and research at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, in a press release. “When LGBTQ teens can be their true selves in athletics, it not only benefits that athlete, it benefits their team and community.”

While sports are still a predominantly heterosexualized environment, many clubs are taking promising strides to create a better, more welcoming athletic setting. Equality is a basic human right, and though it may have been late for our LGBTQ+ community, it is better than never at all.

At the end of the day, no matter what kind of people share it, love will always be love — in the same way that sports will always be sports.

Kiana Thelma Devera writes for Bear Bytes. Contact her at [email protected].