The Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County opinion, affirming that Title VII’s sex discrimination protections extend to “gay and transgender” employees, is an opinion emphatically grounded in a textualism-based analysis. It is also an opinion that does not once mention bisexuals in its text.
The bisexual erasure in the opinion is not unusual; in the nearly quarter century leading up to Bostock, the Supreme Court has repeatedly failed to explicitly acknowledge the existence or equal rights of bisexuals. While bi erasure in Supreme Court cases is not new, in the case of Bostock, the problematic nature of omitting bisexuals from the text of the opinion takes on an additional and ironic dimension: Those seeking to apply Bostock’s holding to bisexuals must contend with a unique tension between the majority opinion’s textualism emphasis and the need to read beyond the literal text of the holding’s limited “gay and transgender” language to ensure that it applies to bisexuals as well.
Along with calling for greater bi inclusivity, this Essay offers an interpretive guide to ensuring Bostock’s precedent, textualist emphasis notwithstanding, is extended to bisexuals. While resolving such tensions, the Essay also describes how systemic bi erasure in LGBTQ rights cases beyond Bostock remains a significant problem. In doing so, it explains the reciprocal benefits of being bi-inclusive, including the role bisexuals can play in illustrating that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.
Attorney in Southern California and cofounder of BiLaw, the first national organization of bisexual lawyers, law professors, and law students. I am grateful to Ezra Young for his invaluable feedback and for his own leadership and advocacy for positive and meaningful “BT” inclusion in LGBT rights advocacy.
Copyright 2020 by Nancy C. Marcus
Cite as: Nancy C. Marcus, Bostock v. Clayton County and the Problem of Bisexual Erasure, 115 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 223 (2020), https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1297&context=nulr_online&preview_mode=1&z=1604287569.