Episode 30: Organizing works - lessons from recent SCOTUS decisions

September 18, 2020

On episode 30 of “The Activist Files,” Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Ghita Schwarz and Senior Staff Attorney Chinyere Ezie talked with Make the Road New York’s Lead Organizer Eliana Fernandez about the impact organizing played in the two key Supreme Court of the United States’ decisions –  Wolf v. Vidal, the decision that preserves Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which Eliana was a plaintiff, the Bostock/Zarda/Stephens cases, which the Court found that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The movement lawyers and activist agreed the organizing and narrative shifting in some of the cases had the justices so worried that the credibility of the court was brought to the forefront.

Eliana talks about her brave decision to be a plaintiff in the DACA case – she’s a DACA recipient and a mom, who didn’t want to be separated from her children. She said Make the Road New York protected her and gave her the tools to empower the movement.

And Chinyere, who wrote an amicus brief in Aimee Stephens, of R. G. & G. R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and attended the argument, tied this Title VII case to Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, which held that Catholic elementary school teachers are “ministers,” so they cannot sue their employer for employment discrimination. While Our Lady of Guadalupe is not about LGBTQIA+ rights, it impacts that community because statutes that prohibit discrimination, from age to disability, were not applied to this case because the employer is a religious organization and the employees, who were subject-matter teachers, were classified as “ministers.” Chinyere noted that Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru did not have a large movement behind the case and wonders if the court didn’t feel compelled to uphold the anti-discrimination statutes because of the lack of public awareness and involvement.


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