On June 15th the Supreme Court, in a majority 6 to 3 ruling, made the consequential decision to include both gay and transgender workers as part of the protected class in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and sex in the workplace. The language in question for the Supreme Court was the question of the word “sex,”and if that word covers employees who are discriminated based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In an unexpected victory for the LGBT community the Supreme Court decided that the language of Title VII does indeed protect gay and transgender workers, which to many came as a surprise as this landmark ruling came from a conservative court. Moreover, the majority ruling was also written by Justice Gorsuch, a conservative judge appointed by Trump. In it Justice Gorsuch writes that “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,” and in doing so “defies the law.”
Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, there were no legal repercussions in 26 states if an an employer fired a worker for being gay or transgender. Now, in all 50 states gay and transgender workers are protected from workplace discrimination and cannot be fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This protection now means that a gay or transgender individual can file a lawsuit against their employer if they experienced workplace discrimination, just like those who file for race and sex discrimination.
The LGBT community sought workplace protections for a long time and did not foresee it to be such an uphill battle. Many in the community believed that they would receive workplace protections before they would ever get the right to same sex marriage. However, this was not the case as the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015.The LGBT community would have to wait five more years for workplace protections. Thus, until June 15th an individual could marry a same sex partner and yet still be fired over it.
Now in 2020, the Supreme Court’s ruling comes to reflect the majority of the country’s opinion as many are against discrimination that targets workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, as a show of support for gay and transgender workers 200 major corporation filed a brief before the court to persuade the decision in favor of workplace protection for LGBT employees.
In reflection over this monumental ruling, Suzanne B Goldberg, a law professor at Columbia states, “this is a simple and profound victory for LGBT civil rights. Many of us feared that the court was poised to gut sex discrimination protections and allow employers to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity yet it declined the federals governments invitation to take that damaging path.”
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