Landmark Supreme Court Ruling: Employers Can’t Discriminate Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

Landmark Supreme Court Ruling: Employers Can’t Discriminate Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

In an historic decision for LGBT rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has held by a 6-3 margin that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

The case, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia (No. 17–1618), involved three individuals who alleged they were fired from their jobs because they were gay or transgender.

In his majority opinion, Justice Neal Gorsuch wrote:

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.

While Justice Gorscuch conceded that the drafters of Title VII might not have envisioned the ban on sex discrimination applying to sexual orientation or gender identity, he wrote that “the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.”

The landmark decision means that public and private employers nationwide are prohibited from firing or otherwise discriminating against any worker on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Prior to the ruling, about half the states had already outlawed this sort of discrimination.

Justice Gorscuch was joined in the six-member majority by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justices Alito, Thomas, and Kavanaugh dissented.

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