On Monday, June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United Stated ruled that a landmark civil rights law –the Civil Rights Act of 1964– protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.
This law prohibits, among other things, racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations. Until Monday’s decision, it was legal in more than half of the states to fire workers for being gay, bisexual or transgender.
“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote for the majority.
Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the court’s liberals in the 6-to-3 ruling. They said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex,” includes gay and transgender employees.
“We must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” Gorsuch wrote. “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.”
Two well-entrenched, unapologetic conservatives —Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas— dissented by claiming that the Justices in the majority opinion were legislating from the bench and that any change should come from Congress, not the court. Justice Kavanaugh essentially agreed. Oddly, however, Justice Kavanaugh ended his dissenting opinion by lauding the LGBTQ movement for its “extraordinary vision, tenacity, and grit.”
Let’s not forget that last week the Trump administration changed federal regulations that prohibited discrimination in health care based on LGBT status. Those were based on an interpretation of what discrimination based on “sex” was. With today’s ruling, the Trump regulation change will no doubt be invalidated.