LGBTQ Workers Protected, Says High Court

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LGBTQ Workers, in an unexpected move from the mostly conservative Court (and a blow to the Trump Admin.) are now protected by federal law

BOSTON—In what is being hailed as a landmark civil rights’ victory for the LGBTQ community, the conservative court ruled to protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination in employment, a blow to the Trump administration.

In response, GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary L. Bonauto issued the following statement:

“[This] historic ruling affirms critical legal protections for LGBTQ people across the country. The Supreme Court has settled the question of whether federal employment nondiscrimination law protects transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. The answer is a definitive ‘yes.’”

The 6-3 ruling authored by Justice Gorsuch recognizes that existing federal sex discrimination protections for workers apply to LGBTQ people based on well-established precedent and because a person’s sexual orientation or transgender status can only be understood in relationship to their sex.

This conclusion “has been standing before us all along,” the majority opinion states. Further, prohibiting employment discrimination is a “major piece of civil rights legislation” written in “starkly broad terms.” As a result, the Court holds employers are liable for discrimination when an individual’s “sex is a but-for cause” of harm to an employee.

The decision joins other foundational sex discrimination opinions about sexual harassment (1986), sex stereotyping (1989), and same-sex sexual harassment (1998), all of which the Supreme Court has found to be within the broad scope of what Congress wrote into federal Title VII law. It also means that if you are transgender, you cannot be discriminated against any longer as it pertains to employment protections.

Although a major win, federal and many state laws still leave too many LGBTQ people and others unprotected in critical areas of life including access to public places like stores or public transportation, or in federally-funded vital social services. The ruling also arrives against the backdrop of pervasive systemic racism and racist violence, that imposes incalculable and intolerable costs on Black Americans and all people of color, including those who are LGBTQ.

The fight for LGBTQ justice is inseparable from the fight for racial justice. As we celebrate this decision, we must keep working with Congress, state and local officials, and all institutions and all people in this nation to ensure discrimination is off-limits in every arena. We must strive to ensure that the words of our statutes have meaning and real-world impacts for all Americans.

While the ruling provides critical federal protections for LGBTQ people, most states still permit discrimination in public accommodations—including stores, restaurants, and hotels—based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

[Excerpts from a News Release and Reporters’ Adds]

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