The Supreme Court is seemingly divided after hearing two hours of courtroom arguments on Tuesday about whether it’s against the federal law to discriminate against LGBTQ+ workers.
The arguments involved two cases of alleged discrimination against gay employees and one case of discrimination against a transgender employee. All three plaintiffs argued that LGBTQ+ workers are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex. The Trump administration previously said that “sex” doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity.
Now, it’s up to the country’s highest court to decide. Their ruling will impact millions of queer and trans workers across the country, but at this point, they remain divided. Four liberal justices largely agree with the plaintiffs, while conservative justices are skeptical, NBC News reports.
Conservatives noted that sexual orientation was definitely not what lawmakers had in mind when they passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out that the law has already been expanded beyond its original meaning to include other interpretations of “sex,” such as sexual harassment.
Moreover, Justice Sonia Sotomayor added: “At what point does a court continue to allow invidious discrimination? We can’t deny that homosexuals are being fired merely for being who they are and not because of religious reasons, not because they are performing their jobs poorly.”
The decisive vote may come from a Trump appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch. He was the only conservative justice to appear sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ argument.
Justice Gorsuch pointed out that it doesn’t necessarily matter whether it’s specifically illegal to discriminate against gay people, saying, “Isn’t sex also in play here, and isn’t that enough?” Still, he also wondered whether the court should “take into consideration the massive social upheaval that would be entailed” if the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
The justices must turn in their decisions by next June.