US Supreme Court hands conservatives devastating losses on LGBT, guns & immigration

Tuesday, 16 Jun, 2020

The US Supreme Court has delivered a watershed victory for LGBT rights - and a defeat for President Donald Trump's administration - by ruling that a longstanding law barring workplace discrimination also protects gay and transgender employees.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that gay, lesbian and transgender employees can sue their employers for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in a landmark victory for gay rights. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary outcome of that legislative choice: "An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law".

"We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary outcome of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law".

More than half of LGBT+ Americans live in states without explicit workplace protections, according to US think tank Movement Advancement Project, meaning they could be fired or harassed for being gay or trans and have little legal recourse.

LGBTQ people no longer can be fired simply because of who we are.

Undoubtedly, many eyes were fixed on how President Trump's two nominees, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, would rule. But efforts by lawmakers to expand the federal workplace protections for LGBT workers has failed thus far.

Brown, 45, from Dallas, Texas, was sacked from his real estate job after co-workers found out he was trans. Writing in dissent, Justice Alito said the court had basically rewritten the law.

"The statute's message for our cases is equally simple and momentous: An individual's homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions", the court's lengthy opinion continues. In February 2018, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination based on sex that is prohibited under Title VII.

Protesters chant holding signs that read 'RESIST' and 'WE OBJECT' in Times Square New York
Mr Trump sparked protests when he banned transgender troops from serving in the military

The court's ruling construes the word "sex" to apply to gay and transgender people.

In ALTITUDE EXPRESS INC. v. ZARDA, Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was sacked from his job because of his sexual orientation.

Gerald Bostock, a gay county government worker from Georgia whose lawsuit was one of three the Supreme Court decided Monday, said no should should have to be "fearful of losing their job because of who they are, who they love or how they identify".

The decision was issued in the combined cases Bostock v. Clayton County, Altitude Express v. Zarda, and R.G. Neil Gorsuch, one of the Trump appointees, wrote the sweeping decision that extended federal employment protections to gay and transgender workers.

"I am sincerely grateful to the Supreme Court, my attorneys, advocacy organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, and every person who supported me on this journey".

Donna Stephens, the wife of transgender plaintiff Aimee Stephens who died last month, hailed her late partner's struggle for justice after being sacked by a Detroit funeral parlor when she came out. Sadly, Stephens did not live to see this victory - she died from kidney failure in May - but she will go down in history as the person who secured this critical right for trans people to do their jobs free of discrimination.

Justice Samuel Alito, one of the court's conservatives, wrote in his dissent that "even if discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity could be squeezed into some arcane understanding of sex discrimination, the context in which Title VII was enacted would tell us that this is not what the statute's terms were understood to mean at that time".