Supreme Court Rules Civil Rights Act Covers Orientation, Gender Identity

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

It never should have come to this, but the good news is the Supreme Court has ruled that Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- the law that bars job discrimination because of sex -- does, in fact, apply to gender identity and sexual orientation.

Much to my own surprise, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in the 6-3 ruling that saw Chief Justice John Roberts also join the court's liberals.

From the Associated Press:

“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,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.” [...]

The outcome is expected to have a big impact for the estimated 8.1 million LGBT workers across the country because most states don’t protect them from workplace discrimination. An estimated 11.3 million LGBT people live in the U.S., according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school.

It has never made sense to say that a law prohibiting discrimination based on sex doesn't apply to transgender or gay people, but this is far from the first historic case that ultimately came down to conservatives challenging the meaning of one single word in a single sentence. Obamacare was almost invalidated, you may recall, because conservatives argued that the word "state" did not apply to both state governments and the federal government.

While today's ruling does not necessarily apply to related issues like transgender access to youth sports, it's still a significant relief for people like myself and makes further challenges to transgender rights less likely or at least less likely to succeed.

Waiting for today's ruling has been an experience I won't forget. We never know which decisions will be released on which day, so every Monday for the past month has included an anxiety or panic attack while waiting for the court to say if I have any civil rights or not.

I'm glad I don't have to wonder any longer, but the court still hasn't ruled on the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and young immigrants' fear of deportation is no less important than my own fear of losing my rights.

It's not clear at the moment if Trump's ban on transgender military service can continue after today's ruling. It seems unlikely, but one way we can ensure his ban is repealed is by voting Trump out of office in November.

Justices Alito, Thomas, and Kegstand all dissented, of course, because they hate other humans as a general rule. Alito wrote that today's ruling is "preposterous" because "sex" doesn't apply to gender identity "as understood today" which only tells me that his understanding can be carbon dated to the previous century.

  • Woo hoo!

  • Tony Lavely

    Plus One For Justice Kegstand!

  • muselet

    No question, this is a big, important decision.

    And that makes me nervous.

    I doubt either John Roberts or Neil Gorsuch gives a monkey’s about LGBT people, sex and gender discrimination, or the supposedly transcendently clear language of statutes. Indeed, I suspect they are squicked by the icky people, think sex and gender discrimination is just peachy, and spend down time playing word games with legal language (just in case, you know). There must be a doozy of a decision about to drop.

    Kevin Drum this morning:

    Because I can see a cloud behind every silver lining, I should mention that I have a theory about John Roberts: namely that he votes with the liberals occasionally on topics he considers unimportant so that he can join the conservatives on all the rest of the rulings. This allows him to keep his reputation as a fairminded umpire without sacrificing much.

    Sounds reasonable to me.


  • Aynwrong

    Yet another example of why “both sides” is the most ridiculous premise in American politics today. If Hillary Clinton had been appointing justices for the last three and a half years I highly doubts the results of this case would have been as difficult to predict. The civil rights of minority Americans are going to be in question possibly for decades as a result of the Trump administration.

    That having been said, congratulations to all who are hopefully more secure in their lives because of this decision.

    “Kegstand” Apt. Very apt.

  • Draxiar

    Excellent news on this! Refreshing to see a 6-3 decision rather than the 5-4 or 4-5 we’re used to seeing.

  • b2blog

    All orientations matter! Not sure if that is a joke or factual statement. Congrats to you and ALL americans today.