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U.S. Supreme Court rules LGBTQ workers are protected by the Civil Rights Act

The Supreme Court issued a landmark decision today that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does, indeed, protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination. The ruling, written by conservative Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch says that “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.”

“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,” the decision reads.

“Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees.”

“But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands,” Gorsuch continued. “When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”

Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, Roberts, and Sotomayor joined Gorsuch in the ruling.

Three cases that argued Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans job discrimination “because of sex” applied to LTBTQ people were heard by the Court in 2019.

Two of the cases, Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, involved discrimination against gay men and one, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC & Aimee Stephens was brought by a transgender person.

Lawyers for the LGBTQ plaintiffs, as well as civil rights groups, argued that discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation involves discrimination because of sex, because a worker is getting treated differently for things that would be acceptable for someone of different sex.

The plaintiffs also argued that LGBTQ people defy sex stereotypes like “men and women marry people of the opposite sex” and “people assigned male or female at birth identify as men and women.”

The ACLU celebrated the decision.

“This is a huge victory for LGBTQ equality. Over 50 years ago, Black and Brown trans women, drag queens, and butch lesbians fought back against police brutality and discrimination that too many LGBTQ people still face. The Supreme Court’s clarification that it’s unlawful to fire people because they’re LGBTQ is the result of decades of advocates fighting for our rights. The court has caught up to the majority of our country, which already knows that discriminating against LGBTQ people is both unfair and against the law,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said. “Our work is not done. There are still alarming gaps in federal civil rights laws that leave people — particularly Black and Brown LGBTQ people — open to discrimination in businesses open to the public and taxpayer-funded programs. Congress must affirm today’s decision and update our laws to ensure comprehensive and explicit protections for LGBTQ people and all people who face discrimination.”

The Trump administration argued that Title VII does not at all address LGBTQ people and that the 1964 Congress did not want the bill to include LGBTQ people. They further argued that it should be up to Congress to pass LGBTQ discrimination protections.

Donald Trump opposes the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to clearly provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.

“The story of our nation is one of a relentless march toward greater justice and greater equality for all people,” former Vice President and presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden said. “Fifty years ago this month, the first Pride march took place in New York City as a protest — as a call for liberation. Today, by affirming that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Supreme Court has confirmed the simple but profoundly American idea that every human being should be treated with respect and dignity. That everyone should be able to live openly, proudly, as their true selves without fear.”

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