Monday, June 15th, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the current federal law must forbid job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status, resulting in the protection of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender workers.
The landmark ruling is not only a groundbreaking victory for LGBTQ people and advocates all over the country, it comes as a surprise from our increasingly conservative court. Monday’s ruling will affect the rights of millions of LGBTQ workers and comes as a defeat against the Trump administration which argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that bars discrimination based on sex did not include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In decisions made from several different cases, the court concluded that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does, indeed cover sexual orientation and gender identity, as discrimination based on those factors is another form of sex discrimination.
21 states currently have their own laws that prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender-identity (seven more provide that protection only to public employees). While those laws will still be in force, Monday’s ruling makes this a federal law, so LGBTQ+ employees everywhere will be protected as well.
This is an especially emotional victory for Gerald Bostock, who was fired from his job in Georgia, as a child welfare services coordinator in 2013, after joining a gay softball league; Donald Zarda, who was fired from his job as a skydiving instructor after revealing to a female client that she shouldn’t worry about being strapped tightly to him during a jump because he was “100 percent gay;” and Aimee Stephens a transgender funeral director was fired from her job after coming out as a transgender woman. (Sadly, Stephens did not live to see the victory unfold as she died May 12th while undergoing hospice care for kidney disease. Zarda also passed away in 2014 in Switzerland during a base-jumping accident. His family went on to continue fight the case on his behalf).
The 6-3 opinion was penned by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices.
“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” Gorsuch wrote.
Sarah Kate Ellis the CEO and President of GLAAD tweeted in response to the victory, “The decision gives us hope that as a country we can unite for the common good and continue the fight for LGBTQ acceptance.” She followed her initial tweet with “Especially at a time when the Trump Administration is rolling back the rights of transgender people and anti-transgender violence continues to plague our nation, this decision is a step towards affirming the dignity of transgender people, and all LGBTQ people.”