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Supreme Court Outlaws LGBT Discrimination

June 15th, 2020 Victoria Breese

LGBT and USA Flag In Front of USSCIn a landmark ruling this week, the U.S. Supreme Court (USSC) decided that sex discrimination now includes LGBT discrimination. This ruling means that employers can no longer discriminate against LGBT workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Before this ruling, sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only prevented discrimination on the basis of biological sex. 21 states, including New York, already had their own laws preventing LGBT discrimination. However, this USSC ruling now will be the law of the land in all 50 states.  

LGBT Discrimination Cases Before the USSC

Three cases involving LGBT discrimination arose before the USSC. Gerald Bostock was fired from a county job after he participated in a gay softball team. Donald Zarda was fired after he told a female customer to not worry about being tightly strapped to him during a skydiving lesson because he was “100% gay.” A funeral home worker, Aimee Stephens, was fired for not following the employer’s male dress code after Stephens began to identify as female. 

Trump Administration’s Arguments Against Changing The Definition of Sex Discrimination

The Trump administration unsuccessfully argued that the legal definition of sex discrimination does not include sexual orientation and gender identity. The basis of the administration’s argument was that biological sex is different from gender identity and sexual orientation. For example, Trump’s Justice Department said “The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation . . . An employer who discriminates against employees in same-sex relationships thus does not violate Title VII as long as it treats men in same-sex relationships the same as women in same-sex relationships.” Ultimately, these arguments were not strong enough to persuade the Court to uphold the previous definition of sex discrimination.

USSC Reasoning on LGBT Discrimination

The USSC acknowledged that gender identity and sexual orientation were not what Congress intended to include when they passed Title VII. Rather, Congress originally sought to prevent discrimination on the basis of biological sex. However, the USSC reasoned that, when an employer fires a man who dates men but not a woman who dates men, that employer has committed sex discrimination. Justice Gorsuch, President Trump’s first USSC appointee, wrote: “An employer who fired 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.” LGBT workers and activists have since celebrated the USSC’s decision to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Seek Legal Assistance Today

If you have experienced LGBT discrimination at work, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.