6-3 Supreme Court Ruling: Civil Rights Law Protects Gay and Transgender Workers

By Mikkel Hyldebrandt

After the Trump administration revoked protections transgender health protection just last week on the day of the anniversary of the Pulse massacre, it seems that Pride Month will gain a little momentum with a surprise ruling by the Supreme Court.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that civil rights law barring sex discrimination in the workplace applies to gay, lesbian, and transgender workers.

The decision is written by none other than President Trump’s first nominee for the court, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen G. Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh dissented.

The decision states Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person’s sex, also covers sexual orientation and transgender status.

The key sentence of the decision states 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.”

The court’s ruling is likely to have a significant impact on federal civil rights laws barring sex discrimination in education, health care, housing, and financial credit Trump has taken actions that have undermined gay and transgender rights since taking office in 2017, and he has been supported by his evangelical Christian base. Now, lawsuits pertaining to those laws that are pending in lower courts are required to follow the Supreme Court decision and precedent.

The surprising ruling came after three cases, involving two gay men and a transgender woman from Georgia, New York, and Michigan were heard back in October. The cases have been classified as some of the most significant on the court’s docket, and they have been pending the longest.

The decision today, picks up the same-sex marriage battle of 2015, where the court ruled that states can’t bar gay men or lesbians from matrimony in a 5-4 ruling. Before that, the Defense of Marriage Act was repealed in 2013. The repeal forced the federal government to recognize any marriages between gay or lesbian couples, even if the respective states didn’t allow same-sex marriage.  

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