Supreme Court rules workers can’t be fired for being gay or transgender

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that workers cannot be fired for being gay or transgender in a blockbuster win for members of the LGBT community. 

The 6-3 holding, authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative appointed by President Donald Trump, is a landmark development in the history of gay rights in the United States.

“An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions,” Gorsuch wrote. “That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

While workers in about half the country were protected by local laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there was no federal law that explicitly barred LGBT workers from being fired on that basis. 

Gorsuch was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, a fellow conservative, and the four members of the court’s liberal wing, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh dissented. 

Gerald Bostock, one of the plaintiffs in the cases, said in an interview after the opinion was announced that he was “elated.” 

“This has been a long seven years as you know,” Bostock said. Bostock was fired from his job as a child welfare services coordinator in 2013 after joining a recreational gay softball league. He added: “I feel some validation right now.”

Advocacy groups immediately cheered the ruling. 

“This decision sends an unambiguous message that equal protection under the law applies to all and that an employee’s failure to adhere to an employer’s gender stereotype is not a licence to discriminate,” Kristen Browde, co-chair of the National Trans Bar Association, said in a statement. 

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, a pro-LGBTQ group, said the decision “affirms what shouldn’t have even been a debate: LGBTQ Americans should be able to work without fear of losing jobs because of who they are.”

The court’s opinion, which was released only online as a precaution against Covid-19, did not immediately load in its entirety, possibly a result of high traffic to the Supreme Court’s website. 

The cases were brought by three workers who said they were fired from their jobs because they were gay or transgender. They argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which says that employers may not discriminate based on “sex,” also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Gorsuch wrote that discriminating against an employee because they are gay or transgender is by definition discrimination on the basis of sex.

“It doesn’t matter if other factors besides the plaintiff ‘s sex  contributed to the decision.  And it doesn’t matter if the employer treated women as a group the same when compared  to men as a group,” Gorsuch wrote.

“If the employer intentionally relies in part on an individual employee’s sex when deciding to…

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