When the history books are written, Gerald Bostock’s name will grace the landmark case that on June 15, 2020, won LGBTQ people nationwide protection from workplace discrimination.
For Bostock, the only surviving plaintiff in the case, it all started in 2013, when he was fired from his job as a child advocate in Clayton County, Georgia, shortly after he joined a gay softball league.
He sued his former employer in 2016, and the case took years to wind its way through the lower courts before reaching the Supreme Court for oral arguments in October. On Monday, the court ruled in his favor, finding that workplace discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In appearances on NBC’s “TODAY” show and MSNBC, Bostock recounted the ups and downs of his yearslong legal odyssey, from his sudden termination from a beloved advocacy job to Monday, when his name was stamped on a Supreme Court decision expanding the rights of millions of Americans.
“I’m elated and I’m filled with so much gratitude and appreciation,” Bostock said, hailing the “very clear message that the United States Supreme Court sent out.”
‘I had faith in the system’
Bostock told “TODAY” host Savannah Guthrie on Tuesday that he was “not surprised” by Monday’s decision.
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“I had faith in the system, and I had faith that the justices would do the right thing,” Bostock said. “I’ve remained optimistic throughout my seven-year journey, especially after walking out of the Supreme Court building back in October of last year.”
Bostock said the nature of the justices’ questions during those arguments — particularly those of Justice Neil Gorsuch — kept him hopeful.
“I continued to be positive and optimistic that they would make the right decisions, and I even predicted a 6-3 win,” he said, referring to the surprise of many that Gorsuch, who wrote the majority opinion, and Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s four liberals.
Bostock said he was “proud to take part in a role to get us to this historic moment,” and reflected upon the two other plaintiffs who were named in the suit: Aimee Stephens and Donald Zarda, who both died before Monday’s ruling, Stephens last month from kidney disease, and Zarda in 2014 in a BASE-jumping accident.
“I can’t say loud enough how proud I am that I was able to stand by Aimee Stephens and the Zarda family during this battle in our fight for equality,” Bostock said.
“Getting to know Aimee was a true privilege and honor, and hearing her story directly from her was amazing,” he said.
Getting his day in court
Bostock also recounted the immense personal toll after he was fired from his job as a child advocate. The last seven years, Bostock said, “have not been easy,” but after Monday’s Supreme Court victory, he said he finally feels “validation” after “losing a job that you loved and a job you were good at.”
“I lost my source of income, and I lost my medical insurance at a time that I was battling prostate cancer,” Bostock said.
And so, Bostock’s legal odyssey is not over yet. Now that he has won, Bostock said his “priority” is heading back to court to reopen the wrongful termination suit that started this journey: “I will get to move forward with my case against Clayton County.”
“All I wanted from the beginning was to have my day in court,” Bostock told Guthrie. “This is the moment I’ve been waiting for for seven years.”
‘We still have more work to do’
Monday’s decision, Bostock said, “underscores, given everything going on in our country today, that we still have more work to do.”
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He said he hopes his Supreme Court victory — which he acknowledged happened amid “dark days” as protests against racism and police brutality persist across the country — will “put a little bit of sunshine out there.”
“I will lend my voice to those efforts to make sure everyone is treated equally,” he said. “There is no room in this world for discrimination or racism.”
Tim Fitzsimons reports on LGBTQ news for NBC Out.
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