In a historic victory to LGBTQ rights, the Supreme Court ruled today (June 15) that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act guarantees workplace antidiscrimination protections to gay and transgender employees.
Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The interpretation of “sex” by federal courts, however, has been inconsistent.
In a 6–3 ruling, the Supreme Court held that the meaning of “sex” includes sexual orientation and gender identity, extending federal antidiscrimination laws to gay and transgender (and presumably nonbinary) employees.
As Justice Gorsuch noted, “For an employer to discriminate against employees for being homosexual or transgender, the employer must intentionally discriminate against individual men and women because of sex. That has always been prohibited by Title VII’s plain terms…”
Until today, only 22 states and some municipalities had enacted laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. The decision makes LGBTQ employment rights a matter of federal law.
The Court’s decision was somewhat unexpected, given its current conservative makeup. It follows the Trump Administration’s recent reversal of health care and health insurance nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.
You can read a more detailed history of the legislative and judicial matters that led to today’s decision in our previous article on the subject.
Andrew Kimler heads Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP’s Employment Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution Practices and is a key member of the LGBTQ Representation Practice. He regularly writes and lectures on LGBTQ legal issues.