A landmark ruling that extends protections to millions of workers nationwide, including gay, lesbian, and trans workers has been ruled by the Supreme Court Monday.
The 6-3 opinion that was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s liberal justices says that an employer who fires an individual for being gay or trans fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different gender. Gorsuch wrote that gender plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, which is exactly what Title VII forbids. The ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration, which argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that bars discrimination based on gender did not extend to claims of gender identity and orientation.
So, with the new ruling, gay and trans employees cannot be legally fired from their jobs solely because of their LGBTQ+ status.
Gorsuch’s vote was anticipated due to his preference for emphasizing the text of the law itself over lawmakers’ intent.
“Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.” – the court said.
The court’s ruling has been celebrated by a number of LGBTQ+ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, whose president said that the decision is a “landmark victory for LGBTQ+ equality”.
Additionally, the president of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, said in a statement that the decision is a step towards affirming the dignity of trans people and all LGBTQ+ people.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called the ruling “a momentous step forward for the country”.
“The Supreme Court has confirmed the simple but profoundly American idea that every human being should be treated with respect and dignity. That everyone should be able to live openly, proudly, as their true selves without fear,” – he said in a statement.
Expectedly, the Supreme court ruling has been sharply criticized by conservatives. Carrie Severino, a former clerk of Justice Clarence Thomas said that Justice Scalia, who was replaced by Justice Gorsuch, would be disappointed that his successor has bungled textualism so badly today for the sake of appealing to college campuses and editorial boards.
A team of lawyers represented LGBTQ+ workers who sued after being fired, including the ACLU. After the historic ruling, the ACLU released a statement in which it called on Congress to update their federal civil rights laws that prohibit gender-based discrimination to make it clear that those laws apply to LGBTQ+ individuals too.
This is what James Esseks, the director of ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project said in a statement:
“Our work is not done. There are still alarming gaps in federal civil rights laws that leave people — particularly Black and Brown LGBTQ people — open to discrimination in businesses open to the public and taxpayer-funded programs,”