WASHINGTON - For LGBTQ rights activist Jerame Davis, the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling Monday banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is all too personal.
In 1999, Davis, then 24, was an assistant manager at a grocery chain store in Bloomington, Indiana. At a corporate meeting, store manager Bill Browning, now Davis’ husband, suggested the company “expand its nondiscrimination” policy to include gays and lesbians.
Within days, Browning was fired. After criticizing the firing, Davis said, he was also let go. A few days later, another gay store clerk was forced to quit amid “the new management’s anti-gay taunts and jeers,” according to Browning’s account.
Though the city of Bloomington had passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that protected gays and lesbians, under Indiana state law, their firing was perfectly legal. “So, when we looked for help, we couldn't find help,” Davis recalled. “No lawyer would take our case.”
Their only legal recourse was a complaint with the local human rights commission. But it took days of picketing outside the store by gay rights activists and union members for the company to offer a settlement.
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