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Supreme Court Rules LGBTQ+ Workplace Discrimination Illegal

Supreme Court

After hearing cases late last year, today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal discrimination laws protect LGBTQ+ workers. The ruling, which is one of the last to be announced in this session, comes with a 6-3 vote. Justices Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts joined the liberal justices to form the majority. Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas were all dissenting opinions. 

"When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it's no contest," Gorsuch wrote. "Only the written word is the law and all persons are entitled to its benefit."

According to the ruling, these rights are laid out in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already. They were called into question in a suite of cases including Bostock V Clayton County, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Altitude Express v. Zarda. While Bostock and Altitude Express both dealt with sexual orientation, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc famously dealt with trans employees. At the center of this case was Aimee Stephens who died in May at the age of 59. There had been an expectation these rules would come separately.

"When I was fired for being trans, I had no idea that my case would become the first involving the civil rights of trans people to be in front of the Supreme Court," Stephens wrote in an op-ed for Out. "It is not what I wanted or asked for. I wanted to continue doing a job I was good at, in a career that I felt was a calling for almost three decades, and make enough money to support myself and my family." She worked at the funeral home for six years, being promoted to a director role before later being fired when she told her boss she was transitioning.

"The answer is clear," the decision reads. "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." The decision is viewed as one of the most important in a lifetime.

When the cases were being heard there were protests and actions on the steps and in the blocks surrounding the Supreme Court. Over 100 activists were arrested in those actions. Others spoke to Out about why they showed up. 

"I’m here to uphold what has already been established: Our country and everyone in it deserves equal protection and justice under the law, and the powers that be are trying to dismantle that.” Peppermint said at the time

The decision comes as the Trump administration has pushed, and succeeded in rolling back rights and protections for LGBTQ+ folks, most recently making it legal to discriminate against queer and trans folks for health insurance.

RELATED | My Boss Fired Me For Being Trans. I Took It to the Supreme Court

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