Written By Meg Aprill
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Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ+ and transgender employees from workplace discrimination. This decision is an important victory for LGBTQ+ rights during Pride Month.
The conservative court decided by a 6-3 vote that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prevents employers from discriminating against workers because of sex or LGBTQ+ bias. Title VII prevents employment discrimination due to someone’s sex, which the court says also prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” This Supreme Court decision provides a necessary protection for the 8.1 million LGBTQ+ workers in the United States. Until this ruling, it was legal in more than half of the states to fire someone because of their sexual orientation and identity.
After the monumental Supreme Court ruling stating same-sex marriage is constitutional right in 2015, the LGBTQ+ community was excited to finally receive protection rights to freely be who they are in the United States. However, workplace discrimination continued to be legal for much longer. It has taken decades for the U.S. to ensure that every LGBTQ+ worker is protected. and it is long overdue. Many argue that this Supreme Court decision is almost as important as legalizing same-sex marriage.
George Chauncey, a leading scholar in LGBTQ+ history, said to the New York Times that “From a historical perspective, this ruling is a tremendous advance for LGBTQ+ people.” He continued to say, “In the twentieth century, countless queer people lost their jobs in factories, government agencies, and corporate offices when their employer learned they were gay.” The threat of losing your job is a fear so many people of the LGBTQ+ community have been facing their entire lives, often forcing them to hide their identity from their coworkers. This court decision finally gives LGBTQ+ employees the right to embrace their sexuality in the workplace.
This Supreme Court decision is timely not only because it is Pride Month, but also because it is in direct opposition of legislation passed by the Trump administration this week allowing discrimination against transgender people’s access to healthcare. Last Friday, The Department of Health and Human Services took away protections for transgender patients. The new regulation allows doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies to uphold discriminatory practices against transgender patients. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling might have undone this reinforced discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
While the court specifically protected LGBTQ+ workers from discrimination, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. says that “What the court has done today — interpreting discrimination because of ‘sex’ to encompass discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity — is virtually certain to have far-reaching consequences.” The Supreme Court decision will inevitably impact all pieces of legislation that prevent sex discrimination by forcing those policies to now include to the LGBTQ+ community as well.
Since the court ruling will have such a wide scope of influence regarding sexual discrimination for the LGBTQ+ community, this decision could also be a major milestone in combating domestic violence, especially in the workplace. For LGBTQ+ employees that face sexual harassment or abuse in the office, it is now safer for individuals to come forward without fear of getting fired due to sexual orientation. Day One hopes that the Supreme Court continues to make important rulings that protect all LGBTQ+ people from all forms of domestic violence.
The future of increasing LGBTQ+ rights and social equality is looking brighter after the Supreme Court’s decision. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new era of civil rights while new policies continue to protect and support people of the LGBTQ+ community.