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UIS professor publishes book with a LGBTQ twist on sex discrimination case

Jason Pierceson

The University Press of Kansas published in May a book by University of Illinois political science professor Jason Pierceson, a leading scholar on LGBTQ issues.

Pierceson’s book is called “Before Bostock: The Accidental LGBTQ Precedent of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.”

“I wrote a book chapter about transgender rights in the courts. And it seemed to me more needed to be told about the story about the influence of this case of Price Waterhouse in Hopkins” legacy in this area and how it wasn't immediately obvious.”

Pierceson showed how Bostock, the landmark 2020 LGBTQ case, was related to another ruling on sex-stereotyping of a cisgender, heterosexual woman. Ann Hopkins of Washington sued the accounting firm Waterhouse because it had failed to promote her to partner even though she was one of the leading contract winners. The woman had been ridiculed by people in the firm for talking like a man because she and she had other so-called male behaviors like swearing.

The justices found sex stereotyping to be covered by the 1964 Civil Rights act that covered discrimination on the basis of sex. It would be later be justification for a more conservative court to rule in favor of transgender people who believed there treatment in the employment arena was discriminatory.

Political scientist Dr. Melissa Michelson, a dean at Menlo College in California, read and wrote a blurb for the book’s back cover. She called Pierceson, who has written or co-written seven books on LGBTQ issues, a rock star in that area of political science scholarship on such topics.

She said, “You saw a Trump appointee, a textualist conservative justice, Neil Gorsuch, writing this opinion in Bostock that advanced transgender rights and LGBTQ rights, and you just thought, “What?”.

“To the casual observer, it just looks like this very bizarre opinion that came out of nowhere,’’ she said. But Pierceson’s book showed that for decades “folks were setting the scene.”

“There are these precedents. In the Price Waterhouse case, there's this opinion written by Antonin Scalia,’’ Michelson said, “There's all this work that was going on between Lambda Legal and Equal Opportunity Commission. And it's just this beautiful story of how, you know, the the stage was set…The decades-long strategy is what got us to Bostock.”

“The other reason that I thought his book was just amazing, was it talks about how really this was about this is a story about how the protection of transgender rights circles back and helps advance gay and lesbian rights, which is kind of the opposite of the way we usually think about,” she said.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and covering the equity beat. Maureen joined the Illinois Issues in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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