LGBTQ activists and supporters hold a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as it hears arguments in a major LGBT rights case on whether a federal anti-discrimination law that prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex covers gay and transgender employees in Washington, October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

In a “watershed victory for LGBT rights,” the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay and transgender workers are protected under a federal law that forbids workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, nationality, and religion. The court ruled with a 6-3 vote that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covered bias against LGBT employees. The decision encompassed three cases, one involving a transgender woman and the other two involving gay men. Plaintiffs Donald Zarda and Aimee Stephens both died before the decision came down.

Lawyers for both employers and the Trump administration argued that the “common understanding” of the rule was that sex discrimination specifically applied to bias against men or women, not discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. They noted that Congress could pass a law to protect LGBT workers if they wanted to establish those protections.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s first appointee to the Supreme Court, wrote the majority opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer joined the opinion. In his opinion, Justice Gorsuch said, “We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” Gorsuch added that Title VII was likely not originally intended to protect LGBT employees, but the wording prohibited employers from making employment decisions based on sex. The Supreme Court’s website crashed after the ruling was announced due to the high volume of users trying to access its PDF.

Courts previously interpreted Title VII to mean that women could not be treated worse than men and vice versa. More than half of U.S. States do not cover sexual orientation or gender identity within anti-discrimination laws, while over half of LGBT employees work in those states. Prior to the ruling, there was no federal law that prohibited employers from firing workers based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The ruling follows a volatile week in the transgender community, as two Black transgender women – Riah Melton of Ohio and Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells of Pennsylvania – were killed last week. President Trump also rolled back healthcare protections for transgender people, though that change will likely be jeopardized due to the SCOTUS ruling.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Supreme Court Rules Gay, Transgender Employees Protected by Anti-Discrimination Laws – Variety – 6/15/2020
The decision comes despite the high court’s rightward lurch and demonstrates the major cultural shifts that have taken place in terms of gay rights in recent years. In a 6-3 ruling, the court said that existing federal anti-discrimination laws under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 apply to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees. More than twenty states have laws preventing job discrimination due to gender identity and sexual orientation, while more than a half-dozen have anti-discrimination laws that apply to public employees, according to NBC News.

Supreme Court rules gay workers protected from job discrimination, in big win for LGBT rights – Fox News – 6/15/2020
The decision dealt with three cases. In one, Clayton County, Georgia employee Gerald Bostock was fired from his job as a child welfare advocate for conduct “unbecoming” a county employee soon after he joined a gay softball league. In another, New York skydiving instructor Donald Zarda was fired days after mentioning he was gay, and in a third, Michigan funeral home worker Aimee Stephens was fired after she told her employer that she would be identifying as a woman six years into her employment.

LGBTQ Americans Just Won A Massive Civil Rights Victory At The Supreme Court – BuzzFeed News – 6/15/2020
The Supreme Court on Monday issued its most sweeping decision ever to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, finding that a federal ban on sex discrimination in workplaces also protects employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite same-sex couples winning the right to marry in 2015, firing workers for being LGBTQ has remained legal across much of the United States, since federal law does not specifically name sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes, unlike race or national origin.

Supreme Court Rules Workers Can’t Be Fired for Being Gay – Newsmax – 6/15/2020
The court decided by a 6-3 vote that a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 known as Title VII that bars job discrimination because of sex, among other reasons, encompasses bias against gay and lesbian workers. A ruling on similar protections for transgender people is expected soon.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Woodrow A. Myers Jr. on Twitter, 6/15/2020: The Supreme Court decision today protects #LGBTQ+ Americans from workplace discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This historic moment falls right in the middle of #PrideMonth and pushes our nation forward. 🏳️‍🌈 Congratulations!🏳️‍🌈

Erica Ponte on Twitter, 6/15/2020: As incredible as this is, it’s concerning that in 2020, 3 of the 9 SCOTUS Justices don’t believe LGBTQ workers should be protected from discrimination. This should’ve been a 9-0 opinion.

Joy Oladokun on Twitter, 6/15/2020: while i’m so happy about the supreme court decision, please don’t get so caught up in celebrating that you forget that black lgbtqia people are fighting for their actual lives right now. please help us keep the same energy until every unjust law and system is struck down.

Mark R. Levin on Twitter, 6/15/2020: 1. Today’s Supreme Court decision will be lauded and celebrated in the media as “historic.”  There will be little or any criticism of the Court’s complete disregard for the actual law and its legislative activism in violation of separation of powers.

Daniel Horowitz on Twitter, 6/15/2020: Alito: “There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation. The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.”

Carrie Severino on Twitter, 6/15/2020: Today six judges acting as advocates opted to rewrite the statute themselves, short-circuiting the legislative process and in the process denying the people a decision that should be theirs to make on a major issue. (3/x)

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