Supreme Court Rules Workers Can't Be Fired For Being Gay Or Transgender

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
Supreme Court Rules Workers Can't Be Fired For Being Gay Or Transgender

The Supreme Court just ruled that workers cannot be fired for being gay or transgender

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark victory for the LGBTQ community to protect gay and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace. The vote was six to three with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing the majority opinion. Joining in the majority vote were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

According to the New York Times, the case decided was about Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevents employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex. As far as the case before the justices was the last part — whether discrimination due to sex applies to employees who are gay or transgender.

“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,” Gorsuch wrote in his opinion. “There is simply no escaping the role intent plays here: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decisionmaking,”

The decision was the first major case on LGBTQ rights debated by the justices since the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion on the prior four decisions made by the court in regard to LGBTQ rights.

As far as the argument at hand, employers and the Trump administration were arguing that in the 1964 act’s wording, sex discrimination was speaking to bias against women or men and didn’t include discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Those employers and the Trump admin argued that Congress would need to pass a new law in order to protect gay and transgender workers.

The lawyers defending those workers said that logic would dictate that discrimination from employers based on sexual orientation or transgender status must involved sex. The court agreed.

For one of the cases, The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati ruled in favor of plaintiff Aimee Stephens, who went to court because she claims her employer fired her after she shared that she would be living her true gender identity at the workplace. “It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” the court said in their decision. “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

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