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This gay softball player helped win SCOTUS employment case

Gerald Bostock was fired from his job after joining a gay softball league. He won his case in the Supreme Court.

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Gerald Bostock speaks at an LGBTQ rights rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, Oct. 8, 2019, after the Court holds oral arguments in three cases dealing with workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Gay softball was at the heart of the case of one of the plaintiffs in today’s Supreme Court ruling banning employment discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Gerald Bostock was fired from his job as a social worker in Atlanta in 2013 after telling co-workers he was playing in the Hotlanta gay softball league. He sued and after seven years his case was finally resolved in his favor Monday in a 6-3 Supreme Court decision.

“Homophobia and transphobia are wrong, as I said from the beginning and any type of workplace discrimination is unacceptable,” Bostock told The Daily Beast from the Atlanta home he shares with his partner Andy. “To hear the opinion read this morning validates what I’ve been saying for the last seven years. I am elated and thrilled. We had a bottle of champagne chilling just in case. There might be a glass of champagne some time later today.”

Here is the background of his case:

Gerald Bostock, a gay man, began working for Clayton County, Georgia, as a child welfare services coordinator in 2003. During his ten-year career with Clayton County, Bostock received positive performance evaluations and numerous accolades. In 2013, Bostock began participating in a gay recreational softball league. Shortly thereafter, Bostock received criticism for his participation in the league and for his sexual orientation and identity generally. During a meeting in which Bostock’s supervisor was present, at least one individual openly made disparaging remarks about Bostock’s sexual orientation and his participation in the gay softball league. Around the same time, Clayton County informed Bostock that it would be conducting an internal audit of the program funds he managed. Shortly afterwards, Clayton County terminated Bostock allegedly for “conduct unbecoming of its employees.”

Bostock was a member of the Honey Badgers in the Hotlanta league, which was founded in 1981. Bostock was the co-plaintiff in the suit that was decided by the Supreme Court along with a New York sky diving instructor, Don Zarda. A second lawsuit involving a Michigan transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, was part of the Supreme Court ruling. Both Zarda and Stephens died before the Court ruled.

Bostock’s case shows the power of LGBTQ sports leagues as a vehicle for people to come out and play sports in an accepting environment. I know of many men and women who came out to co-workers, family and friends after joining such leagues and I am among them.

In 1990, when I was sports editor at the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram, I came out to co-workers as gay by asking them to buy a T-shirt to sponsor my flag football team at Gay Games III in Vancouver. It was an organic way to have the conversation without having to make a major declaration. Everyone I asked bought a shirt.

Unlike Bostock, I was not fired from my job. For him, the seven-year court fight is now over and his persistence has made him an historic figure whose name will be forever etched in the Supreme Court docket.

“Quite obviously, it’s been difficult,” said Bostock told the the Daily Beast of the wait for the decision. “There has been a lot of anxiety, a lot of emotion, tied to it, which equated to a lot of sleepless nights on Sunday nights. Luckily we’ll have some better nights’ sleep moving forward.”