US Supreme Court says LGBT workers are protected by law against discrimination

  • The court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes bias against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • President Donald Trump said he accepted the court’s ‘very powerful decision’
Associated Press |

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The US Supreme Court ruled June 15, 2020 that federal protections against workplace discrimination apply equally to sexual orientation.

The US Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects lesbian, gay, and transgender people from discrimination in employment. The historic decision is a huge victory for LGBT rights all around the world.

The court decided by a 6-3 vote that a key part of the Civil Rights Act known as Title VII that bars job discrimination because of sex, among other reasons, includes bias against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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“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.”

US President Donald Trump said Monday he accepted the court’s “very powerful decision.”

Gorsuch was joined in the majority by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal members. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s other Supreme Court pick, dissented, along with Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

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Trump had a restrained reaction, telling reporters that he’d read the decision and that “some people were surprised.”

He added: “But they’ve ruled and we live with their decision. That’s what it’s all about. We live with the decision of the Supreme Court. Very powerful. A very powerful decision actually. But they have so ruled.”

The outcome is expected to have a big impact for the estimated 8.1 million LGBT workers across the country because most states don’t protect them from workplace discrimination. An estimated 11.3 million LGBT people live in the US, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school.

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But Monday’s decision is not likely to be the court’s last word on a host of issues revolving around LGBT rights, Gorsuch noted.

Rights groups have said they will challenge the administration’s effort to roll back anti-discrimination protections for transgender people in health care. Lawsuits are pending over transgender athletes’ participation in school sporting events, and courts also are dealing with cases about sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms, a subject that the justices seemed concerned about during arguments in October. Employers who have religious objections to employing LGBT people also might be able to raise those claims in a different case, Gorsuch said.

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, Obama’s vice president, praised the decision on Twitter as “another step in our march toward equality for all. The Supreme Court has confirmed the simple but profoundly American idea that every human being should be treated with respect.”

In recent years, some lower courts have held that discrimination against LGBT people is a subset of sex discrimination, and thus prohibited by the federal law.