Supreme Court Rules Civil Rights Law Protects Gay and Transgender Workers

The Supreme Court rules that employers cannot discriminate against employees who are gay or transgender.

In a 6-3 vote, the highest court in the federal judiciary of America said Monday that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and sex — also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. 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,” Judge Neil M. Gorsuch — who was appointed by President Donald Trump — wrote for the majority.

The decision covered two sets of cases, the first of which concerned a pair of lawsuits from gay men — social worker Gerald Bostock from Clayton County, Georgia, and skydiving instructor Donald Zarda — who said they were fired because of their sexual orientation.

The second concerned the case of transgender woman Aimee Stephens, who said she was fired from a Michigan funeral home after she announced her gender identity in 2013.

Zarda passed away in 2014 from a skydiving accident while Stephens died on May 12 due to complications of kidney failure.

Justice Gorsuch was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

After the landmark ruling, presidential candidate Joe Biden wrote in a statement, “Today’s Supreme Court decision is a momentous step forward for our country. Before today, in more than half of states, LGBTQ+ people could get married one day and be fired from their job the next day under state law, simply because of who they are or who they love. This landmark 6–3 ruling affirms that LGBTQ+ Americans are entitled to equal rights under the law.”

While acknowledging that SCOTUS’ decision coincides with Pride Month, the former vice president added, “This decision is another step in our march towards equality for all. And while we celebrate this victory today, we know that our work is not yet done. As President, I look forward to signing into law the Equality Act, protecting the civil rights of LGBTQ+ Americans, and championing equal rights for all Americans. Happy Pride!”

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