I always note the day. Each year on the first Monday of October the United States Supreme Court begins its session.
A wave of anxiety annually washes over me as I think of how lives and futures of countless Americans will be changed by decisions placed in the hands of nine people. I have fretted over affirmative action for colleges, reproductive rights for rural women, and how hard the court might make the rules for any sexual harassment victim to get justice.
Five years ago, when the freedom to marry for same sex couples case—Obergefell v. Hodges—- was to be decided, our law firm was fighting the same cause in the Midwest courts on behalf of seven couples who sought to protect their relationships and their rights. Rulings from the black robed and too often ivory towered intellectuals in our top court feel personal when those impacted are people you care about deeply like your clients.
“Don’t take things personally” I tell myself. One of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements for living wisely, it’s a principle I believe in. It’s a perspective I encourage others to hold. But this year, on the first Monday in October, I struggled to apply it.
The court on Tuesday heard arguments to determine whether transgender employees are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The court will decide whether employers in our country have the legal right to hurt my child.
My child graduated with recognition from a community college, a state university, and Harvard Law School. He got his first job when he was a teen and has worked hard ever since. He has served in our military, fought wildfires in our forests, and been a public servant on Navajo Nation reservation. Still, the Supreme Court will have the power to deprive him of his dignity in the workplace.
These judges will decide if my youngest can lawfully be demoted, paid less than the person working alongside him, harassed, or fired. They can declare whether he can be hired for his dream job or even get a chance to interview for it.
The decision to be made feels personal because it’s my child. Yet there are over a million transgender Americans who will be impacted, along with their co-workers who risk losing valued team members and their families who risk losing financial support.
The ruling of the court will not be personal. But the implications for my child and my transgender friends are. My hope is that the justices imagine for a moment what it would feel like to be this mom on the first Monday in October.
How to you re-frame your worries about loved ones?
What decisions of others might you be taking personally?
What hopes do you hold in the face of fear?