By: Melissa Sanchez
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a landmark federal civil rights law from the 1960s protects gay and transgender workers, a historic decision! The ruling was 6-3, with Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s first appointee to the court, and the most conservative. writing the majority opinion. The opinion was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.
So, what exactly does this mean for the LGBT community?
Well, before this ruling, there were employers that truly believed that they could terminate someone for being gay or transgender. Now, employees in states that didn’t provide statutory protection for this kind of discrimination are protected by federal law and have legal recourse if
they are fired for this reason.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as gender, race, color, national origin and religion. Lawyers for the employers had argued that the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act had not intended it to apply to cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity. In his opinion,
Justice Gorsuch said, “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that person based on sex, if a boss fires a man for being attracted to other men, Gorsuch continued, then “the employer discriminates against him
for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president, called the ruling “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.”
The dissenters, however, did not share in Biden’s positive outlook towards the decision. “Regardless of whether LGBTQ workers should be protected,” Kavanaugh wrote, “our role is not to make or amend the law. As written, Title VII does not prohibit employment discrimination because of sexual orientation.” Kavanaugh said the majority opinion “rewrites history.” “Seneca Falls was not Stonewall. The women’s rights movement was not (and is not) the gay rights movement, although many people obviously support or participate in both,” he wrote. “So to think that sexual orientation discrimination is just a form of sex discrimination is not just a
mistake of language and psychology, but also a mistake of history and sociology.”
While the court is establishing a long history of decisions expanding gay rights, this is the first time it spoke directly about the legal protections for transgender individuals. This decision a victory not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but for anyone who simply cares about justice and the equality of rights.