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

Date Added: June 16, 2020 01:01:56 AM
Author: Sutra Web Directory
Category: Society & Culture

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. 

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 discharge the employee—put differently,  if changing the employee’s sex would have yielded a different choice by the employer—a statutory  violation  has occurred,” he wrote. 

The workers who brought the cases are Gerald Bostock, a gay man who was fired from his job as a child welfare services coordinator in 2013 after joining a recreational gay softball league; Donald Zarda, who was fired from his job as a skydiving instructor after revealing his sexual orientation to a female client; and Aimee Stephens, a transgender funeral director who was fired after announcing her intention to present as a woman.

Gorsuch hinted at his feelings about the cases during oral arguments in October, telling David Cole, an attorney for Stephens, that he was “with you” on the text of the Civil Rights Act. But he warned that the case could lead to “massive social upheaval.”

In his opinion, Gorsuch made it clear that he viewed the text as the deciding factor in the case. 

“Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences  that  have  become  apparent  over  the  years,  including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male  employees,” Gorsuch wrote.

Gorsuch added: “But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to  ignore the law’s demands.”

Only Bostock lived to see the cases decided. Zarda passed away before the case was argued and his challenge was pursued by his family. Stephens passed away last month at her home in Detroit, from kidney failure, according to her attorneys. 

The cases are Gerald Lynn Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; Altitude Express v. Melissa Zarda; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
 
~ Via CNBC