A celebration of equal rights
There was much celebration in the land among people who value equal rights on June 15 after the Supreme Court announced its landmark ruling that workers cannot be fired for being gay or transgender. The decision that they are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, was authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch and passed 6-3.
It’s in keeping with many lower court rulings that anti-discrimination laws cover sexual orientation and transgender status, as well as the conclusions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
After many of the hair-splitting justifications and arguments over definitions of gender and sex that have muddied conversations in the public square, Gorsuch’s ruling cut to the heart of the matter: “An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
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 decision involved the cases of two gay men who were fired because of their sexual orientation and a woman who was fired after she came out as transsexual.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Gerald Bostock, was fired from his job as a child welfare services coordinator in 2013 after joining a gay recreational softball league.
He said, “I feel some validation right now.”
The ruling was somewhat surprising, considering President Trump’s overhaul of the Supreme Court. His two conservative appointees were supposed to prevent “legislating from the bench,” as Justice Samuel Alito’s dissenting view described this decision.
But that’s not what this is, Gorsuch asserted, writing, “In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”
* Guest editorial from The Winston-Salem Journal in Winston-Salem, N.C.