Hoosier witnesses blockbuster Supreme Court civil rights case

Shelly Fitzgerald flew to D.C. to witness a Supreme Court hearing about workplace discrimination. (Courtesy: Shelly Fitzgerald)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTHR) — Thousands gathered in Washington D.C. Tuesday as the Supreme Court heard a set of blockbuster cases on civil rights.

The justices are considering whether existing federal civil rights law protects LGBT employees from job discrimination.

And a Hoosier was in the courtroom to witness part of the arguments.

For Shelly Fitzgerald, the issue of workplace discrimination is very personal.

"The day that it was announced that the Supreme Court was going to hear these cases, we booked our flights to come out here to be a part of it," Fitzgerald said. "It was the perfect opportunity to come and be a part of history."

Fitzgerald described the atmosphere in Washington as "electric" Tuesday morning.

"It's music, and, it's flags and it's dancing, and it's signs. I mean, there are signs all over the place. And it really is just, it's an incredible place," she said.

Fitzgerald waited for hours in a line that wrapped around an entire city block to get inside the Supreme Court with her wife and daughter and witness potential landmark cases for LGBT rights.

The Supreme Court is deciding whether existing federal law makes it illegal to fire employees because they're gay, lesbian or transgender -- whether the law that bans sex discrimination also apply to sexual orientation.

Indianapolis has been front and center in this debate recently.

Fitzgerald is one of several educators at local Catholic schools fired over their same-sex marriages.

Shelly Fitzgerald flew to D.C. to witness a Supreme Court decision about workplace discrimination. (Courtesy: Shelly Fitzgerald)

"Workplace discrimination has obviously become very personal for me. But it's more than that," Fitzgerald said. "Everybody who's here is here to fight for equality for all people. The only people in the world who are allowed to discriminate at this point is if it's in the name of God and that to me is not just unjust but it's completely the opposite of what the message of religion and spirituality should mean."

Right now, most states, including Indiana, do not protect LGBT workers from workplace discrimination.

The historic cases heard at the high court could change that.

"It's just really an impactful place to be. Just a movement like no other," Fitzgerald said.

The high court appeared split over this issue on Tuesday. The outcome may hinge on President Trump's two appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

A decision is expected by summer 2020.

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