Thank you, Aimee Stephens. RIP.
Thank you, Gerald Bostock.
Thanks you, Don Zarda. RIP.
In a 6-3 ruling made possible by lawsuits involving the above three LGBTQ people, the Supeme Court has decided that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion, also bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
It is a landmark ruling, one which found Chief Justice John Roberts and, surprisingly, Justice Neil Gorsuch siding with the four liberal justices. Gorsuch even wrote the opinion, apparently in order to be sure he gets a piece of this for his legacy:
An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex ... We agree that homosexuality and transgender status are distinct concepts from sex. But, as we’ve seen, discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender status necessarily entails discrimination based on sex; the first cannot happen without the second.
The momentous decision was in response to Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda (the late Zarda was fired as a skydiving instructor after coming out to a client), Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia (Bostock was fired for joining a gay softball team) and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the late Stephens was fired after six years upon announcing she would transition).
Lambda Legal's CEO Kevin Jennings said, in response to the decision:
Finally. Today, the law, justice and fairness are on our side. Our nation’s highest court confirmed what Lambda Legal has argued for years, that discrimination against LGBTQ workers is illegal. We have a long way to go in securing the full and undeniable civil rights of LGBTQ people, especially those in our community who are Black, Indigenous and people of color for whom their sexual orientation or gender identity is only one of many barriers to equal opportunity in this country. But today’s victory is a necessary step forward on the journey toward equal justice for all without caveats or qualifications. The overwhelming majority of people in the country understand that discrimination is wrong, and so we intend to build on the momentum created by today’s decision to push for the comprehensive federal protections contained in the Equality Act, passed by the House of Representatives more than one year ago. The Equality Act solidifies the workplace protections recognized by the Court today and, critically, it also updates and expands protections in the marketplace and public services not only on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but also on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion in the workplace, the marketplace, and beyond.
Lambda Legal had worked on a strategy for this decision for up to a decade. More here.