Earlier today, the Supreme Court declared that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“CRA”) protects LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination. In what is hailed as a major victory for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer workers, the justices said the CRA’s ban on job discrimination on the basis of “sex” can be read to forbid bias against employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, appointed by President Trump, wrote the majority opinion that included Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court’s liberal justices. The decision surprised many legal pundits who thought that the Court would turn far more conservative on gay rights following the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender,” Gorsuch wrote. “The answer is clear. 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 undisguishable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.” While Monday’s decision is a landmark victory for LGBTQ employees, it was based on the court’s legal interpretation of an existing law passed by Congress, not constitutional guarantees, as was the case with several previous rulings on LGBTQ rights.
The Trump administration, which has moved aggressively to curtail transgender rights, did not immediately comment about the ruling. Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden called the ruling “a momentous step forward for our country.”