Home Courts U.S. Supreme Court extends civil rights job protections to LGBT workers

U.S. Supreme Court extends civil rights job protections to LGBT workers

The U.S. Supreme Court decided by a 6-3 vote that LGBT workers are protected from job discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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A view from an earlier LGBT Pride March in New York City. File photo by Angela Signor

Title VII offers protection for employees against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex and religion. The legislation was never updated by Congress to specifically cite sexual orientation or gender identity among the protected demographics. Twenty-one states have their own laws prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, while seven others extend that protection only to public employees.

In writing for the court majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch stated, “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 was joined in the majority by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Justice Samuel Alito, who was joined by Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas, wrote as a dissent, “The Court tries to convince readers that it is merely enforcing the terms of the statute, but that is preposterous. Even as understood today, the concept of discrimination because of ‘sex’ is different from discrimination because of ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity.’”

The court’s decision was based on two cases: one involving a pair of lawsuits from gay men who claimed they were fired because of their sexual orientation and another from a transgender woman who said she was fired for embracing her gender identity in her work.

New York Attorney General Letitia James lauded today’s decision. Last year, James co-led a coalition of 22 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing that federal anti-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace.

“Who you love or how you identify should have no impact on your employment,” James said in  statement.

“Today’s decision is a victory for millions of individuals who now can rest assured that they will not be fired or disciplined simply for being themselves. While we should celebrate this victory, the struggle is not over, so we will continue to fight for equal rights in every aspect of life for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers and Americans nationwide because no one should every be singled out or discriminated against in this country – not for their race, their ethnicity, their religion, their gender identity, their sexual orientation, or any other reason.”

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Phil Hall's writing for Westfair Communications has earned multiple awards from the Connecticut Press Club and the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists. He is a former United Nations-based reporter for Fairchild Broadcast News and the author of 10 books (including the 2020 release "Moby Dick: The Radio Play" and the upcoming "Jesus Christ Movie Star," both published by BearManor Media). He is also the host of the SoundCloud podcast "The Online Movie Show," co-host of the WAPJ-FM talk show "Nutmeg Chatter" and a writer with credits in The New York Times, New York Daily News, Hartford Courant, Wired, The Hill's Congress Blog, Profit Confidential, The MReport and StockNews.com. Outside of journalism, he is also a horror movie actor - usually playing the creepy villain who gets badly killed at the end of each film.

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