This month Honolulu will be covered with rainbow flags and numerous festivities will occur across the Aloha State as part of Pride. Later in the month, on Saturday, Oct. 19, colorful floats and scores of people will march from Magic Island to Kapiolani Park.

While the majority of cities across the United States coordinate Pride in June, in conjunction with the timing of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Hawaii has chosen to honor and celebrate the advancement of LGBTQ rights in October. While Pride may be a celebration of where we are today, it does not mark the end of our journey.

Hawaii has often been viewed as one of the leading states in addressing the legal inequalities the LGBTQ community faces. State law, for example, prohibits “any employer to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or discharge from employment” based on certain protected statuses such as gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, that is not the case everywhere.

According to the Movement Advancement Project, only 21 states, two U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, have explicit employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This checkerboard pattern of protections under state law is a result of the absence, or at least the uncertainty, of federal law.

In a couple days, the United States Supreme Court will see three cases — Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. EEOC — to determine if the prohibition on employment discrimination based on sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. It will be a watershed moment in our history, as the highest court in the land will determine if my employability is dependent on who I love over my work experience, education, and work ethics.

GLBT rally held at the Capitol. 27 april 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

I immediately think of my grandparents who migrated from Samoa to Hawaii for better opportunities. Despite having no formal education, they worked as farmers, as a fisherman and fisherwoman, in a pineapple plantation, as a lei maker, and in other capacities to provide for our family.

Their constant counsel to me since I was a child was to work hard because the system will always acknowledge hard work. It is because of my grandparents that I went to college on the East Coast, was the first in my family to graduate with a college degree, and is the reason why I am in law school today. However, as it stands on the federal level, my sexual orientation may trump the very values my grandparents so fiercely believed in.

Pride Is Still A Protest

The Trump administration has been clear on its stance. In a brief filed by the Department of Justice, the administration asserts that Title VII should not be interpreted to include LGBT protection because that was not the original intention of Congress. The Supreme Court has rejected similar claims in the past.

For example, the court determined that workplace harassment constitutes sex discrimination and that male employees can utilize Title VII’s protections even though men were not the intended beneficiaries of the law. According to this administration, you need to be more than just a hard worker to support yourself and your family. You also need to be heterosexual and cisgender.

As I march with my partner, family, and friends this month for Pride, I do it to honor those who have paved the way for the rights I enjoy today, but I also march in solidarity for the work that needs to happen. I am thankful for the courage of Don Zarda, Gerald Bostock, and Aimee Stephens who are challenging the law and will make their case to the Supreme Court this month. I march for them.

I also march for my grandparents because like them, I want to provide better opportunities for the next generation.

Celebrate, but don’t stop. Pride is still a protest.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author