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Why Netflix and others affirmed support for transgender workers after Roe fell

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, many companies like Netflix (NFLX) revealed they'd pay expenses for workers who need to travel to get an abortion. Some employers also vowed in the same announcement to pay for those who need to go out of state for gender-affirming care, too.

It might seem random for companies to stress their support for LGBTQ workers in the same breath as abortion rights. However, the move reflects employers' efforts to foresee their workers' needs and fears in light of shifting legal realities, according to Jenny Pizer, Lambda Legal’s law and policy director.

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision — which revoked the constitutional right to an abortion — didn't just alter the landscape for reproductive rights. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas also suggested that the court's reasoning should be used to take away other rights, including same-sex marriage and even consensual sex between two people of the same gender.

The court relied on the 14th Amendment's due process clause and its implicit guarantee of privacy for its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and then again for a 2003 decision striking down a Texas law banning gay sex. The high court relied on that amendment yet again when it legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.

Actress and transgender rights advocate Laverne Cox exits the U.S. Supreme Court after the court held oral arguments in the transgender rights case
Actress and transgender rights advocate Laverne Cox exits the U.S. Supreme Court after the court held oral arguments in the transgender rights case "R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission" in Washington, U.S., October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The Dobbs decision, then, opens up a whole world of frightening possibilities not only when it comes to reproductive rights, but also for LGBTQ rights.

“There are multiple reasons that we’re thinking about these things as inextricably intertwined. Legally, the legal foundation for Roe and Casey — it's the same body of case law that we use to argue for bodily autonomy, self-determination, and what liberty means,” said Pizer, referring to the 1973 case establishing a right to an abortion and a 1992 case affirming that right.

“It’s not like it’s a thousand things — we’re talking about particular types of medical care that are under duress in some states,” Pizer added.

Microsoft (MSFT) and Netflix are among the companies expressly offering gender-affirming care in their post-Roe travel reimbursement policies for employees. Starbucks (SBUX) and Bumble (BMBL) have also been direct about their interest in providing gender-affirming care to employees however possible.

From here on out, more than 20 states are set up to severely limit abortion or ban it all together.

Meanwhile, 147 pieces of anti-transgender legislation were introduced in state legislatures just last year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Some of these bills aim to stop trans youth from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. Others bar transgender people from using restrooms they identify with. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has called gender-affirming care for minors "child abuse."

“These things are happening at the same time, they’re legally related and politically related… and we also see that in some ways it’s socially related,” Pizer told Yahoo Finance. “It’s also happening at the same time temporally.”

Members of Planned Parenthood invited to lead the 2022 NYC Pride parade march in response to the overturn of the landmark Roe v Wade abortion decision, in New York City, New York , U.S., June 26, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Members of Planned Parenthood invited to lead the 2022 NYC Pride parade march in response to the overturn of the landmark Roe v Wade abortion decision, in New York City, New York , U.S., June 26, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Roe v. Wade, LGBTQ rights, and the war for talent

As Roe’s been overturned, we’re also in a moment where tech companies have been especially invested in retaining talent amid the so-called Great Resignation — the post-pandemic phenomenon that has seen people quitting their jobs as they reflect on their priorities, find better gigs, or both.

It's a moment of companies trying to "kill two birds with one stone" — a chance to respond to both the end of Roe and the deluge of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced this year in state legislatures. There are at least 300 of them by Pizer's count, and about 30 of them target limiting access to gender-affirming care.

That said, companies can offer these benefits — but will employees have the time to take advantage of them? Even if these benefits are available, people will need to take the time to leave town to get the care they need and, of course, those who will be most affected by Roe being overturned — low-income workers — face even greater barriers and are unlikely to have the help of their companies.

In the end, Pizer said, it's better to do something, than nothing, especially as these companies that operate across the country are in an increasingly difficult position.

“We’re seeing the cultural divide and the legal divide widening in a way that just creates so much difficulty for companies that want to operate nationally or internationally,” said Pizer. “If they want to retain their talent, they have to do something.”

Allie Garfinkle is a senior tech reporter at Yahoo Finance. Find her on twitter @agarfinks.

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