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Supreme Court Delivers Big Victory for Gay Rights

Justices say LGBT people are protected from job discrimination
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2020 9:28 AM CDT
Updated Jun 15, 2020 11:05 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a major victory to supporters of gay rights, reports the AP. In a 6-3 ruling, the justices decided that Title VII, a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protects LGBTQ workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation. Coverage:

  • The law: Title VII bars discrimination at work based on "sex" and other factors, and for the last 50 years or so, "sex" has gotten a narrow definition—basically that women and men can't be treated differently at work, per the Washington Post. Monday's ruling expands that definition to the LGBT community.

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  • The ruling: "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," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court. "Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids."
  • The surprise: Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts, who usually side with the court's conservative majority, instead joined the court's four more liberal members, notes Politico.
  • The legal question: "The decisions in this case highlight a tension with textualism," writes Jonathan Adler at Reason. That is, in regard to the 1964 law, "do we focus on the discrete meaning of the words, or do we focus on the words as they would have been understood and applied at the time they were adopted." He adds that law schools will be poring over the opinions in the coming year.
  • Gorsuch's view: His ruling acknowledges that Congress surely didn't intend to protect LGBT workers when it passed the legislation, but he said that's irrelevant. "Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result," he wrote. "Likely, they weren't thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees."
  • Dissent: Justice Samuel Alito, in a dissent joined by Clarence Thomas, says the court went too far. "There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation," the dissent begins. "The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive."
  • The cases: The ruling centers on multiple cases, and the New York Times has the details. They included a pair of lawsuits by gay men who say they were fired because of their sexual orientation, and another from a transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, who says she got fired when she announced she would start embracing her female identity at work. Stephens died last month.
(Read more gay rights stories.)

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