Will wonders never cease!
Monday’s Supreme Court decision was a welcome, happy surprise for the LGBTQ community and all of its allies. In case you haven’t heard yet, the 6-3 ruling held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, barring discrimination based on sex, applies to gender identity and sexual orientation.
The Trump Administration was arguing that the landmark legislation did not extend to protect LGBQT workers, but the Supreme Court’s ruling on two separate cases — unusually brought together in a single opinion — states that Title VII protects LGBTQ people.
What’s perhaps most amazing about the ruling is that Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s first Supreme Court Justice appointee, wrote the majority opinion. In it, he stated, according to CNN, “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.”
The opinion went on to state, “There is simply no escaping the role intent plays here: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decision making.”
What does that mean? While it seems to just impact protection for workers, it may also set powerful precedent for other discrimination cases. This decision builds upon Obergefell vs. Hodges, the Court’s landmark 2015 gay marriage ruling, in ensuring equal rights for LGBTQ people. It’s a legal decision that could make it into history books eventually for its significance.
It’s also notable that two conservative justices, Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts, voted with the four liberal justices on the court. While we’re in a more polarized point in our national history than we’ve perhaps ever been, a 6-3 ruling is further evidence that the Supreme Court can still sometimes transcend politics.
One could argue that on a basic issue like worker’s rights, tied to a longstanding piece of civil rights legislation, that’s there’s not a right or a left here — that there’s a right and a wrong, and this is more a moral argument than a political one.
In short, I’m thrilled that there’s a Supreme Court ruling to celebrate—two, in fact, considering the great news about DACA yesterday! I especially look forward to seeing how this new ruling is applied in the coming years to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.