The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear cases concerning whether or not it is illegal for employers to discriminate against gay and transgender workers.
The Washington Post reports that the court has agreed to hear three cases: two involving sexual orientation-based discrimination and one on gender identity. The Supreme Court will hear the cases in its next term, beginning in October 2019.
The cases are centered around Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex. In the three cases it will hear in the Fall, the court will determine whether or not the term “sex” in the clause can also be applied to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The two sexual orientation based cases come from New York and Georgia. In the New York Case, Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired from his job in 2010 after he told a client he was gay; however, his employer, Altitude Express, insisted that he was fired for inappropriately touching the client. In the Georgia case, Gerald Bostick, a social worker in Clayton Couty, Ga., asserts that he was fired for being gay, though his employer said his firing was for other reasons.
The gender identity case is Michigan-based. Funeral director Aimee Stephens was fired from a funeral home company in 2013 after she began presenting as a woman in the workplace. According to the funeral company, Stephens violated the dress code by wearing women’s clothing. Her employer also stated that she violated his religious beliefs about gender.
“No one should be denied a job or fired simply because of who they are or who they love, including LGBTQ people,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in a statement on Monday. “The growing legal consensus is that our nation’s civil rights laws do protect LGBTQ people against discrimination under sex nondiscrimination laws. The Supreme Court has an opportunity to clarify this area of law to ensure protections for LGBTQ people in many important areas of life. The impact of this decision will have very real consequences for millions of LGBTQ people across the country.”
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the employees, it could have a major effect on everyday lives for LGBTQ individuals in the country. For advocates who have been calling for protections under the Civil Rights Act for decades, these cases highlight the need for the recently introduced Equality Act, which would amend existing laws to ban this sort of discrimination in the future. A win would also be a major hit against the Trump administration, which openly calls for discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity.